Maintenance of appliances includes wise use that preserves the appliance's ability to keep working well for a longer time. One tactic people use to make life easier for their home's air conditioning systems is to restrict the use of the system, either by restricting the times during which it can be used, or by setting the thermostat to a slightly higher temperature. Basically, they take the advice to set the thermostat to 78 for better efficiency and amp it up a notch, setting it to something like 80 or 82. The hope is that, not only will doing so reduce utility bills, but that it will also be a little easier on the compressor and keep the system running better. Does this really work?
Less Work, Less Wear
On one hand, the higher thermostat setting means the system will not have to struggle to cool the hot air in a house to fairly low temperatures. If it's really hot outside, and the air inside the house keeps trying to rise to those very hot temperatures, an air conditioning system set to cool a lot, say to 78, will have to work harder to reach those lower temperatures. If the thermostat is set a little higher, however, say to 82, it will be less of a struggle to reach 82 in the house. Less struggling and work does point toward less wear on the system.
Frequency of Use
However, another issue that really affects how well-maintained the system is, is the frequency of use. More use will result in the system needing maintenance services or repairs, sooner. Less use can preserve the well-being of the system.
You should be aware, however, that not using the system will not exempt it from needing any maintenance. Dust can still gather on the filter, and the outside unit will need care as well, even if the system remains off. Also, turning on the system when the inside temperature of your home has become very hot can result in the compressor struggling more.
Finally, there's the question of the existing condition of the system. If you have neglected basic maintenance, like changing the filters, checking out strange sounds, or even just having the system inspected yearly, it may not matter what you set the thermostat at. The clogged filters could make the system struggle no matter what. Strange sounds could be loose parts about to break off. Uninspected systems could have failing parts that you don't know about. No thermostat setting is going to save the system from those problems.
It really doesn't take much to maintain an air conditioning system if you stay on top of filter changes and annual inspections. When your air conditioner is already in great shape, a change in thermostat settings can have a greater preservative effect. Contact an air conditioning maintenance service to learn more.