Stay Cool and Save on Your Electric Bill
Although the Florida sunshine continues to heat things up in our area, there’s no reason to lose your cool – or to spend a lot of money keeping it. Here are some tips on how to stay comfortable this summer without breaking the bank.
START WITH THE A/C
One of the most energy-thirsty appliances in your home is the Heating/Air-Conditioning (HVAC) system. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy says heating and cooling your home typically accounts for about 48 percent of your total utility bill.
There are some things you can do yourself to help keep it running as efficiently as possible – and some you should leave to the professionals. Here’s a quick rundown:
- KEEP YOUR FILTERS CLEAN – Dirty air filters constrict airflow, make your system work harder and are one of the leading causes of system breakdowns. Replace your central air unit’s filters every month, or as often as they are designed to last.
- CHECK SYSTEM EFFICIENCY – Here’s a simple test to see if your system is cooling properly: On a day when the temperature is above 80o F outside, and your A/C (with a clean filter) has been running for at least 15 minutes, put a thermometer on the intake vent that’s closest to your inside cooling equipment. Keep it there for about 5-10 minutes and note the temperature. Then do the same at the air output vent. If the air coming out isn’t 14 to 20 degrees cooler than the air going in, you should call an HVAC professional.
CALL A PROFESSIONAL
- INSTALL A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT – By replacing your old thermostat with a programmable one and following the manufacturer’s instructions on how and when to set it for maximum efficiency, you will see the savings start to add up almost immediately. In some cases, installation can be a simple do-it-yourself project. But if you’re not comfortable installing it yourself, call an HVAC professional.
- KEEP UP WITH MAINTENANCE – A properly maintained A/C will run more efficiently and last much longer. Poor maintenance can cause your unit to use up to 30 percent more energy and can cut your compressor’s life nearly in half, according to The Family Handyman. Contact an HVAC professional and get on a scheduled maintenance plan to ensure your unit remains in peak operating condition at all times. This will save you money on repairs and frustration from system failures.
- GET YOUR DUCTS IN A ROW – Not only does your system require regular maintenance to keep it in top shape, it’s just as important that your ductwork is properly sealed, insulated and doing its part to keep the cool air blowing into your living space and not escaping into your attic. This is especially important if your HVAC system is more than eight to 10 years old and it hasn’t been fully inspected in a while. The good news is, this service is only required every few years. Ask your HVAC professional for guidance.
- REPLACE THAT OLD SYSTEM – Like all machines, no matter how well we maintain them, they eventually wear out and need to be replaced. While this can be costly, today’s systems operate more efficiently and can greatly reduce your monthly energy costs. For example, replacing an old 7-SEER unit with a new 14.5-SEER unit can save you about $764 a year and pay for itself in just a few years, according to the A/C Savings Calculator at ENERGY STAR. Go to www.energystar.gov to learn more about SEER ratings and calculate your potential savings.
OTHER TIPS TO REDUCE COOLING COSTS
- MAKE SOME SHADE – Add some shade in and around your home. Plant leafy bushes and trees around the outside of your home and close the curtains or blinds during the day to stop the sun from coming in.
- CREATE A STIR – Raise your thermostat a couple degrees and run the ceiling fan in whatever room you’re in. The circulating air increases moisture evaporation from your skin and cools you off. Be sure the fan is in summer mode (blowing down) instead of winter mode.
- SEAL THE CRACKS – Sealing cracks around doors and windows is an inexpensive way to keep the cool air in and the hot air out. Don’t forget to close off the fireplace.
BONUS TIP: UNPLUG IT – TVs, DVD players, computers and other electronics, even when turned off, can continue to drain electricity – this is known as “vampire power.” To keep your electronics from sucking up unused energy, either unplug them or plug them into a power strip designed to cut unneeded power use.