We’re blessed with excellent weather in South Florida. Warm winters and relatively cool summers allow us to go the whole year without fretting over energy costs.
But energy efficiency should be a top priority for any homeowner. There’s no need to throw money out the window when you can caulk that window and save the cash for something more exciting than air conditioning.
Whether you are looking to cut costs, reduce your carbon footprint, or get your home ready to sell, here are a few energy upgrade ideas to help you out.
Maximize Your Insulation
Let’s be honest, when it comes to renovating, insulation has to be one of the least exciting projects. It’s not something you want to invite friends over to see, and you probably don’t brag about it at work.
But it’s first on the list for a reason: paying attention to your insulation can pay big dividends in the near and long term.
Having the proper amount of insulation can save you 10-50 percent of your heating and cooling costs. For South Florida, you’ll want an R-Value (a measurement of the insulation’s capability to reduce heat transfer) between R30-R49. This is especially important if your home is older (pre-1980s) and has never had any insulation added.
The great news is that upgrading your insulation can pay for itself even if you plan on selling your home soon. In fact, adding attic insulation has a return value of over 120 percent in the South Atlantic region.
Update Your HVAC System
While we have mild winters and summers here in South Florida, we still rely on heating and cooling systems to keep us comfortable indoors. Your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and cooling) unit is the biggest energy user in your house, often accounting for 40 percent or more of that commodity, according to Energy Star.
If your system is more than 10 years old, you are likely using much more electricity than you need. Modern condenser units are quieter and more efficient than older units, and they can save you hundreds every year.
Since we don’t require substantial heating in the winter, you probably don’t need to spring for a super efficient heat pump. But you might want to have your ducts and vents inspected to make sure they are clean and not leaking, especially if you notice that some rooms are too warm or too humid.
Stop the Leaks
One of the biggest enemies of an energy efficient home is keeping the hot air out and the cold air in (or vice versa). Small leaks in the attic, around doors and windows, or in your ductwork might not be noticeable, but they add up quickly. In some cases, the accumulation of these small openings is the equivalent of leaving a door or window open year round.
A home energy audit is often the first step in ensuring that you aren’t losing all your precious conditioned air through small cracks and crevices. Check with your electric company to see if they offer a complementary energy audit, which can tell you where you need to focus.
Even if they don’t offer this service, it may be worth paying for an inspection if you are considering a major energy purchase.
Upgrade and Seal Windows
While you’re repairing gaps around windows, you might want to consider an upgrade. Whether through leaks or just the typical transfer of heat through glass, windows are a huge problem for conserving energy.
In South Florida if you’re considering window replacement, you’ll probably go with impact resistant windows.
They may provide even better protection than shutters in a storm depending on your situation. If you’re already considering window repairs or an upgrade, you should definitely explore your options. It’s also worth looking into tinted or low-e windows, which block light and reflect infrared heat.
Examine Your Thermostat
If you still have a manual thermostat, one of those where you pull a lever over to set the temperature, you should run out now to see what’s available in the 21st century.
Programmable versions go a long way in reducing your energy use. They allow you to have a “set it and forget it” approach to controlling temperatures in your home if you follow a typical schedule most days.
Even if you’ve upgraded to a programmable thermostat, though, you might want to check out the newest smart options. They might sound like just the latest gadgets, but these high tech thermostats do a lot to help you control your HVAC system.
Some (like the Nest line) learn from your behavior and get used to your routine, adjusting your thermostat to fit your comfort level. Most options also allow you to change the temperature of your home from your smartphone, whether you are home, at the office, or away on vacation.
That means you can have the thermostat set high when you don’t need it, then adjust it when you’re on the way home. You arrive to a house that is the perfect temperature, and you saved some energy while you were gone
Purchase Energy Efficient Appliances
The Department of Energy suggests that your appliances account for another 15 percent of your energy use. Major appliances like refrigerators, washers, dryers, and water heaters can make the biggest impact of your monthly bill.
If your washer and dryer predate your first shopping spree on EBay, investing in a high-efficiency set will save you some electricity and water. But if you’re planning to sell soon, you might want to invest in that new unit after the move. Instead, consider a more efficient water heater or even a tankless unit that could impress potential buyers who love long, hot showers.
There are plenty of good reasons to make your home more energy efficient: you’ll save money, you’ll help the environment, and you’ll make your property easier to sell.
And if you remain in the house long enough to reap the energy savings, that is where you will enjoy the biggest payoff. However, even if you plan to sell your home soon, some of the smaller upgrades can still make sense.
If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, or if you would like advice about which upgrades will give you the best return, contact the Jablon Team to benefit from our years of experience in selling South Florida real estate.
Marc Jablon, The Jablon Team
New Harbor Realty