This Often-overlooked Button in Your Car Can Make Your Ride More Comfortable — and Help You Save on Gas – Travel + Leisure

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Summer is just around the corner, which means scorching temperatures will soon be upon us. While that’s a welcome fact for a day at the beach, it’s not so fun when you have to get into a sweltering car for a long commute. There is, however, one thing that can help cool down that rather uncomfortable summer experience in a snap. And it all comes down to a single, often-overlooked button on your car’s dashboard: the recirculation button.
When you get in your car later for a drive, make sure to check out the dash to find the recirculation button. It's usually the little button with an icon of a car and a sideways-u-shaped arrow inside of it. Here's a little more about what it does and how to use it effectively.
What Is the Air Recirculation Button?
Car company Eden Tyers & Servicing shared in a blog post, “The air recirculation button effectively cuts off the outside air to the inside of the car ‘recirculating’ air inside your vehicle.” This makes it easier to ensure you’re recirculating air-conditioned air rather than hot air from outside.
What Does the Air Recirculation Button Do?
The post goes on to explain that the air recirculation button is great for, "boosting your AC to help your cabin get as cold as possible as quickly as possible, stopping pollution and exhaust fumes" and even "reducing pollen when driving if you suffer from hay fever" and "stopping strong outdoor odors entering your car."
The button works by helping your car recirculate the cool air from your AC from the moment you turn it on. If you choose not to use the button, your car will have to pull in air from the outside and work twice as hard to cool that air than the already chilled air around you.
When's the Right Time to Use the Air Recirculation Button?
Because the air recirculation button is great when you're using your car's air conditioning, you'll likely want to use it when you're driving in a heat wave. This will ensure your air conditioning gets as cold as possible as quickly as possible.
"If you don't switch the air-recirculation button on, then your air-con will be constantly cooling warm air from outside your vehicle and will have to work much harder, putting more stress on the blower & air compressor," the blog post explained.
What Are the Benefits of an Air Recirculation Button?
If you’re reading this in 2022, or likely any time in the near future, you know that gas prices have gone bananas. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to set a reminder to use your air recirculation, because the harder your AC has to work, the more fuel your car will consume. The Wall Street Journal reported, “Cars typically are more fuel-efficient when the air conditioner is set to recirculate interior air. This is because keeping the same air cool takes less energy than continuously cooling hot air from outside.” The Journal did, of course, also point out that “turning off the air conditioner saves even more fuel.”
Furthermore, using the air recirculation button means you'll be putting less stress on your AC, helping the system to last just a bit longer.
When Should You Avoid Using the Air Recirculation Button?
While the recirculation button is great for the summer months, it may be best to avoid it in the winter. That's because the button (by design) traps moisture inside your car, and in the winter that could add up to foggy windows and a foggy windshield.
The Eden Tyers & Servicing blog post also warned, "Some drivers think it makes sense to not have 'all that cold air coming in' if they are using heaters in winter. However, in reality, it's best to keep it switched off. The standard 'fresh air' mode forces the outside air through your heater core so it's nice and toasty before it reaches you, and your windows will de-fog a lot quicker and stay that way while you drive."
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