22 Energy Saving Tips for the Florida Summer

Sunshine in St Petersburg FL Today is another day where the temperature will be over 90 degrees here in St Petersburg FL and it will continue this way for the foreseeable future, typical Florida summer sunshine!  I listen to the buzz of my air-conditioner and the whir of the fans we have in most of the rooms of our house and shiver more at the thought of our energy bill than the cool temperature being emitted.  The average cost of residential electricity in St Pete is 13.17 cents per KW, 15% higher than the Florida average of 11.42 cents per KW and 11% higher than the national average.  I’m sure I’m not the only one interesting in reducing consumption in the face of higher than average rates and continuously increasing prices.  Here are 22 ways to reduce energy consumption in the summer months:

Systems

  1.  Keep your HVAC system maintained, replace filters and keep the coils clean
  2.  Consider replacing your HVAC if it is more than 15 years old.   HVAC systems typically last around 12 years, and every year manufacturers come out with more energy efficient models than previous years.
  3. If you have older duct work in your home, consider insulating it.  Alot of the older rigid ducting was put into attics without insulation or the insulation has been disturbed over the years.  Poor duct insulation will result in cool air being warmed as it travels from the air-handler to your room.
  4. Check the ducts are sealed properly – if your ducts need cleaning this is often a sign that dust is getting into the system and all the joins and seals should be checked.
  5. Consider replacing your hot water heater with a new one – newer hot water heaters are always more efficient than older ones.

Air Leaks

Air is constantly moving around your home, conditioned air displaces unconditioned air even in walls, attics and outside the home.

  1. On a hot day, with the air conditioning running inside, walk around the exterior of your home and put your hand close to every window and door you can reach, pay most attention to the seal where they open and close.  Can you feel cold air escaping?  Consider installing weather stripping around doors and windows that need it and add a door sweep to the bottom of exterior doors.
  2. If you don’t already have one, consider installing a glass storm door – that second layer of separation between the interior and exterior of you home will make a difference.
  3. Check around outlets, light fixtures and plumbing fixtures – any gaps that allow air to transfer between conditioned and non conditioned spaces can be sealed with caulk or foam if they are large.
  4. Check for windows that don’t close properly – eg. do your sash windows stay fully closed at the top – also check for cracked windows.  Consider repair or replacement.
  5. Often plumbing fixtures will pass through walls behind cabinets, or cabinets and baseboards will hide gaps that air is escaping through even though you can’t see them – check by feel for changes in temperature or telltale accumulation of dust caused by the air flow.  Seal accordingly.

Insulation

  1. Check your attic insulation.  Our recommended minimum attic insulation is R-30, or about 12 inches deep depending on the insulation material – if you are unsure check with a professional insulation company.  Insulating your attic will have one the biggest impacts on your heating and cooling energy consumption.
  2. When you are in the attic, ensure that the hatch is insulated as well – often the attic hatch is made from plywood just half an inch thick with no insulation at all.  If this is the case them a quick fix is to glue some insulating foam board to the hatch cover, allowing it to overlap with the hatch opening so there are no gaps for air to infiltrate.
  3. I’ll often see garages that are partially unfinished, sometimes with the wall between the house and the garage just open studs and drywall.  If this is the case, consider adding insulation and finishing with drywall – there are building code requirements on finishing garages so check with a professional or your city first – and this will not only remove some of the opportunity for air movement between the spaces but will also provide insulation.
  4. Consider adding insulation to your hot water pipes where they are exposed, to reduce the cooling between the hot water heater and the fixture.

Lighting and Other Opportunities

  1. Compact flourescent bulbs use less energy than incandescents, and LEDs use less energy than CFL.  Studies show that while LEDs are most expensive, the cost of ownership of LEDs is less when considering the running costs and the longevity.  This is a quick and simple upgrade.
  2. Buy Energy Star Appliances.  Also, consider the power consumption of items like computers when you are looking to replace them – do you really need all that computing power?
  3. Reduce vampire power!  Electronics, their chargers and a whole host of other items in a typical household consume electricity when in standby mode – Unplug them!  Whilst this won’t have a significant impact on your utility bill, it is simple and easy to do – every bit helps.
  4. Landscaping provides shade from the sun and will impact your energy bill – this is one of the reasons why a permit is needed in St Pete to remove a Live Oak.  If you are planning landscaping, consider shade implications as well as aesthetic.
  5. Lower the temperature on your water heater – some people like scolding hot showers and baths but pay the price of constantly maintaining a water heater at that temperature
  6. Install a smart or programmable thermostat – these can make a difference by changing the temperature in the home according to your needs and are especially beneficial if you are out at work all day.

If you do want to improve the energy efficiency of you home, consider the following questions:

  • How much money do you spend on energy and how does that compare to similar homes?
  • Do you have a priority list of you greatest energy inefficiences?
  • How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
  • Do the energy-saving measures provide other benefits —for example, decreased road noise from installing double-paned windows?
  • Will you be in your home long enough to reap the rewards of an energy saving project?
  • Can you do the job yourself or do you need a contractor?

Not sure where to start, or just want professional help?  There are companies who will do an energy audit for you and  make recommendations of energy saving improvements – I can make a recommendation if you contact me.