How to Live in a Japanese Apartment

Using the Air Conditioner and Heater Remote Control in a Japanese Apartment

In this chapter of the “how to live in a Japanese apartment” series, we explain how to use a wall-mounted air conditioner and heating unit and give a few tips for efficiently keeping your home warm in the winter (and cool in the summer).

Vocabulary for Using the Remote Control

A typical remote control looks like this:

A typical remote control for an air conditioning/heating unit in Japan.

There are a whole lot of buttons and functions, but you only need to know four or five to do almost everything you need.

  • 運転停止 or 入切: On and Off
  • 運転切り換え: Switch functions
  • 温度: Temperature
  • 風量切り換え: Switch fan power (amount of ventilation)

How to Switch between Functions

In almost all air conditioning/heating units in Japan, there are five basic functions you can choose from:

  1. 自働: Automatic. The unit automatically switches to the appropriate function based on the room temperature.
  2. 冷房: Air conditioning
  3. 除湿 or ドライ: Dehumidify. Super useful in summer or winter to reduce the amount of moisture in your room.
  4. 送風:  Ventilate. This just runs the fan without heating or cooling the air.
  5. 暖房: Heating

To switch between the different functions, press on the 運転切り換え button until the triangle arrow points to the function you want in the LCD window. In the image above, the unit is set to 暖房 (heating)

Setting the Temperature

To set the temperature, press the Up and Down (温度, temperature) triangle buttons to the number you want.

Switch Fan Power

In almost all air conditioning/heating units in Japan, there are five fan power settings you can choose from:

  • 自働: Automatic. Most manufacturers recommend this setting to maximize energy efficiency.
  • 強風: Strong (high) fan power/ventilation
  • 弱風: Weak (low) fan power/ventilation
  • 微風: Very low ventilation
  • 静音: Quiet mode

Here’s how to read the characters for the different buttons and settings:

Setting the Timer

To save energy, you may want to set the timer on the air conditioner (so for example, it turns off a few hours after you fall asleep).

The way to set the timer varies by the particular unit, but here is some vocabulary that may be useful.

Other Functions & Settings

Many air conditioning and heating units come with energy-saving and cleaning settings. Here are some common functions:

Energy-Saving Tips

Here are some facts and tips for efficiently using your air conditioner/heater and to keep your electricity bill down.

  1. For every 1 degree Celsius that you decrease the temperature setting in the winter, you will save about 10% in electricity usage; and vice versa in the summer. Source: Fujitsu General
  2. It is more energy efficient to adjust the temperature setting than to continually turn the machine on and off. This is because it takes more energy to power up than to adjust the temperature while the machine is running.
  3. For maximum energy efficiency, set the “fan power” to automatic rather than manually using “strong” or “weak” ventilation settings.
  4. In the winter, point the vents down to push warm air toward you. In the summer, point the air vents parallel to the ground. To do this, use the 風向 (fan direction) button.
  5. Clean the filter in your air conditioner at least once a month (every two weeks is even better!). For more info on how to do this please see: How to stay warm at home in Japan
  6. Circulate the air in the room with a floor fan in the summer. This helps to circulate cool air much more efficiently than just using the air conditioner unit.
  7. Make sure nothing is blocking the air conditioner’s exterior unit. This is the part of the air conditioner that sits on the balcony.

You may also be interested in: How to clean tatami mats in a Japanese apartment and Japanese apartment air vents: how and why to use them