One of America’s most popular founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain but death and taxes.”
Professional HVAC contractors in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida beg to differ. There’s one thing these a/c contractors know and understand, which puts a little spin on Franklin’s old adage: Air conditioners across the Sunshine State can be extremely “taxed” to the point of “death” when they are not properly used and maintained. Period.
Not only could an overworked a/c system require costly repairs or replacement during the intensely hot summer months, but resulting energy inefficiency means higher utility bills for you and your family.
The Florida Public Service Commission has outlined 20 useful tips to help residents stay cool and save money in conjunction with maintaining your central air conditioning unit, many of which can still apply if you have a heat pump system or a window a/c unit:
- Close shades, drapes, and blinds during the day. This applies to all windows in all directions, especially East- and West-facing because as the position of the sun changes through the day, so too does the way heat penetrates windows, warming your home.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. This could be shorts, capris, short-sleeve shirts, tank tops, etc., to help keep your body cooler outside during really hot days, and inside so you can set your thermostat a bit higher to keep the air conditioner from running constantly.
- Set the air conditioning thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. Don’t be afraid to raise your thermostat a few degrees higher when you’re away during the day. A lower air conditioning temperature makes your air conditioner work harder, not smarter, escalating energy costs. Remember, when you set your air conditioner at 70 degrees instead of 78, operating costs nearly double! If you don’t have a digital thermostat, please consider the nominal investment for more accurate results. Additionally, smart devices keep you in control of your home’s air system, even when you’re away.
- Don’t choose a lower air conditioning temperature when you first turn it on. An air conditioner can only cool as fast as its capacity to cool. If you set the thermostat to a lower temperature when you turn it on, you will not cool your house or rooms any faster than if it was set at a higher temp. In fact, if you set it too low, you run the risk of “freezing” the system so it doesn’t cool at all. If you have a smart device, you can adjust a digital thermostat from where you are, so your home is cool when you or family members arrive.
- When weather is mild, use fans instead of the air conditioner. Your central air conditioner will use about 100 times more energy than a fan at medium speed. If it’s a rainy, gray day, or temps aren’t extreme, give the air conditioner a break and let your fans circulate the air. With our humid client, consider a dehumidifier to remove some of the moisture in the air to keep it from feeling so thick and sticky.
- If you have ceiling fans, run the fans and the air conditioner at the same time. If you run your ceiling fans while the air conditioner is running, set the a/c a few degrees higher, to 80 or 81 degrees. Ceiling fans – when spinning the right direction, will circulate air and create little breezes that can help keep you and your space feeling as cool as you would at 78 degrees with no fans. The best part? You can reduce your costs by as much as 15%-25%.
- Use a microwave instead of the range/oven. The microwave doesn’t heat the kitchen at all, compared to a stove and oven. When a stovetop burner is used, heat is released into the kitchen, and the same goes for a heated oven. Once they oven is turned off, the heat has to go somewhere, so it is released into the kitchen, increasing temps that will prompt the air conditioner to run more to cool the space.
- Keep windows and doors closed while air conditioning. This seems common sense, but many people love fresh air and sunlight, even if temperatures are higher outdoors. By closing windows and doors, you’re not “cooling the neighborhood”, so to speak, and you’re keeping the cool in your home. Draw blinds and curtains when the sun is shining bright, too. Heat is emitted from the sun through glass windows, which warms these areas around your home from sunrise to sunset.
- Change the air conditioners air filter monthly during heavy use. This is one of the most important things a homeowner or renter can do to help maintain proper operation of their HVAC system and improve air quality in the home. When filters get clogged, air flow is restricted, allergens continue to circulate through the home, cooling costs rise, and your system can eventually suffer a compressor failure with a $1000+ repair bill! Filters can be found at most any home or department store, and they range in price to very inexpensive to more pricey, based on your family’s and a/c system’s requirements.
- Arrange items in your refrigerator for quick removal and return. Your refrigerator cools food and beverages, but it heats the kitchen. The longer the refrigerator door is open, the longer the refrigerator runs. The longer the fridge runs, the longer it emits heat from the coils in the back of the appliance into the kitchen, thereby raising your air conditioning and energy costs.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the out-of-doors. Dryer vents can dump heat and moisture into the house air if it’s not directed outside. An old-fashioned way to dry clothes is still used in some backyards around Tampa Bay: clotheslines! Try letting a fresh breeze dry freshly washed delicates, clothes, and linen. No clothesline? There are many varieties of drying racks available to save energy and spare heat.
- Clean the dryer lint filter frequently and check the outdoor vent opening. When lint slows the airflow, it takes a dryer more time to dry fabrics. When the vent is clogged, the clothes get a long, hot, damp, costly tumbling, too. If you use dryer sheets, one helpful hint is to wash lint screens with a mild dishwashing liquid to remove built-up softening agents for even more energy efficiency.
- Drink plenty of cool liquids. In the Florida climate, drink lots of water, water, water! Avoid caffeine and alcohol, because they serve as diuretics to remove water from the body. Eat lighter, healthier meals prepared outdoors whenever possible. A grill or outdoor kitchen may get hot, but better outside than inside where your air conditioner has to work harder to cool the air.
- Plant shade trees. Outside shade can reduce air conditioning costs 30%. Shade on the east and west is most important, but anywhere you can expand shade will help shield your residence from the sun’s rays.
- Seal air leaks around doors and windows. Use caulk and weather-stripping to seal cracks and prevent cool air from escaping. This will also help keep warmth in the home during cooler winter months, and again, will help save energy expenses.
- With central AC or heat pump, keep all air conditioning supply registers open, don’t close off rooms or registers. People often think that by closing off rooms or registers that the cool air directed to these spaces will be redirected to rooms-in-use, saving energy and money. Doing this really doesn’t save money, and it may lead to costly problems with your air conditioning or heat pump system.
- Check for air duct leaks. Duct leaks in the attic or under the house cost you money because cool air that could be circulating through your home is actually escaping. A professional HVAC contractor can inspect ducts for leaks and most offer cleaning services to help remove dust and allergens that have collected over time.
- Run the AC thermostat set on AUTO, never on FAN. An air conditioner fan will circulate the air in your home continually, burning unnecessary energy without effectively cooling the residence. By setting the thermostat on “auto”, the unit will shut off when the desired temperatures are met and will turn on only when cooling is required.
- Keep up the habit of turning off lights as you leave a room, especially in summer. Lights add a lot of heat to the room, even with energy-efficient bulbs. 99% of a light’s energy use is converted to heat, 1% to light. Use only as much light as you need at any given time to save energy and keep rooms and spaces cooler.
- Call Your Energy Services office for information about a free home energy audit. Your area’s energy auditor will know and understand the 105 Causes of High Utility Bills, and more. They are happy to bring that experience to your residence and put it to use. Call 891-4YOU (4968) and press 41 for a free energy audit.
These beneficial tips will prevent unnecessary taxing of your air conditioning system; save energy and utility expenses, potentially reducing your carbon footprint. By heeding these simple suggestions in conjunction with regular air conditioning maintenance, you can keep your air system running smoothly and efficiently summer to summer, year after year!
Proficient Air in Palm Harbor offers a variety of high-quality maintenance contracts, specifically tailored to your needs and budget. Protect your HVAC investment and keep your home and family cool, comfortable and energy efficient all summer long, with Proficient Air. Call us today: 727.386.2732