We live where it’s always warm and comfortable, so why do you need to worry about making your South Florida home more energy efficient?
After all, we’re warm all year ‘round, and we air condition ourselves when it’s too hot. So we have nothing to complain about.
But even though we’re almost always comfortable, many of our homes are subject to energy inefficiency. And that means we’re paying higher electrical bills every month.
Here are 5 ways to make your home more energy efficient and in the process, 5 ways to cut your electric bill. And, as an added bonus, you’ll decrease your carbon footprint.
1. The most important: upgrade or replace your a/c.
If your air conditioning system is more than 10 years old, it’s well behind today’s current systems in terms of efficiency and energy use. If you’re a typical home owner, your cooling and heating systems (we turned on the heat twice last year) consume up 40% of your energy use.
If your system is older, it may use even more than that. So if you find certain rooms too cold or others too humid, it may be time to talk to your favorite a/c company.
There is certainly an expense to upgrading, but your energy bills each month will be noticeably lower and your home will be more comfortable.
2. Find the leaks and seal them.
However, a new air conditioning system will not live up to its full efficiency if what is known as the “thermal envelope” (or building envelope) of your home is full of holes. Bring in an engineer to check for leaks around doors, windows, floors, and ductwork. Often your local power company will provide this kind of thermal audit for a nominal charge.
Many of these leaks are simple repairs that require only caulk, expandable foam, or weather stripping. The idea is to minimize or eliminate air seepage in and out and generally create a weather seal around the structure.
3. Change to electronic, programmable thermostats
Most of us set the temperature in our homes to a comfortable level and then leave it like that. So when we’re out of the house, the air conditioning is still running at a relatively high level.
But the reality is that the house doesn’t care if things warm up a bit. So while you’re gone, if the house heats up to 80 before the a/c kicks in, it’s really not a problem. But it is a savings.
And the best way to make that happen is to put in a programmable thermostat. That way, you can set the a/c to go on right before you come home so the house is as cool or as warm as you like it to be. When you leave for work, the temperature will automatically adjust to a higher temperature.
If you’re gone for two weeks, you can program the thermostat to bring the house back to your comfort level when you return.
And there are apps you can set up with your system. So you can maintain the efficiency of your system and your home from wherever you happen to be.
4. Install tinted impact windows
There’s no greater source of heat transfer in a home than the windows. These vast, clear glass panels bring in heat and let out cooler air.
If you had no windows, your electric bills would drop by a large percentage. However, it’s not realistic to consider living without natural light. Like plants, we’d wither and shrivel.
So, barring that drastic measure, a better idea is to replace old, leaky windows (jalousie windows are especially prone to air leakage) with new ones.
In south Florida, impact windows are a very good idea for two reasons. The first is that they are built to withstand the impact of hard objects that may be blown around during a hurricane. The second is that installing these windows can provide a significant discount on your wind insurance premiums every year.
I you decide to put these windows in, make sure you purchase them with a low-e (low emissivity) coating. If you use a tinted low-e coating, you will further limit heat ingress and heat egress.
5. Add to or upgrade your insulation
The newer your home is, the more insulation it is likely to have in it. However, as a home ages, loses some or all of its efficiency. This may be due to dampness from dampness, which negatively affects the integrity of the insulation. Or, it could be due to compression, which means the insulation is no functioning at its maximum efficiency.
Adding insulation is not difficult. You or your contractor can carry relatively lightweight batts into the crawlspace of attic of your home and then unroll them. Or, you can hire companies that will blow additional insulation into your attic or into the outside walls of your house.
Putting these 5 ideas to work in your home in stages – or all at once – will not only add to your comfort, it will also subtract from your electrical bills.
Marc Jablon, the Jablon Team
Re/Max Complete Solutions