Owning a home in Florida poses unique energy challenges. The climate is hot and humid. Air conditioning and dehumidifiers work overtime in this environment. A house has to have good airflow to be comfortable and prevent mold and mildew growth. The building envelope has to be high quality or else leaks will suck the cool air right out. Home energy efficiency challenges abound in Florida. How do you keep your energy bill low with so many demands?
- Energy Vampires
Energy vampires are usually consumer electronics that draw a surprising amount of power even when in their ‘OFF’ state. For instance, a plasma TV can draw an extra 1,400 kilowatt hours of power annually in standby mode. That’s up to $150 just from when it’s off. A cable box can cost another $40-50 a year just from when it’s in standby mode. You might consider putting these on a switch so that power can be cut to them when not in use (and when you haven’t set a recording on your DVR).
Laser printers and laptops are major draws of power, even when not in use. A printer is essentially always in standby mode. A laptop charger is always drawing power. The same goes for game consoles and DVD/Blu Ray players. Things you leave charged in all the time – from phones to electric razors and toothbrush chargers, are all drawing power even when the items are fully charged. It’s not a big life change to only plug these in when you need to charge the item, instead of all the time – it’ll even make battery life on these items last longer in most cases.
- Light Bulbs
Old light bulbs are on their way out. They draw a ton of power. Replace them with CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) or LED (light emitting diode) bulbs. These reduce the energy used by up to 90 percent.
You may even look into tunable lighting, which can adjust the color temperature of lights over the course of the day. This can help save power and has added benefits, such as mirroring the color temperature of the light outside – and thus making getting to sleep much easier.
- Use Ceiling Fans with AC
Ceiling fans are incredibly efficient at moving air around. They don’t actually cool the room at all. What they do is cause air to circulate, moving it across your skin and improving the rate at which your sweat evaporates. That, in turn, helps to cool you.
When ceiling fans are paired with air conditioning, you won’t find cool and hot spots around your home nearly so often. The fans will help spread that cool air throughout large rooms evenly. Turning on a fan means you can turn down the AC just a bit. That fan will use less energy than the air conditioning will to get it a degree or two cooler.
- Insulated Glazing
Glazing is good on more than just donuts. Double and triple glazed windows use two or three sheets of glass to create insulated spaces that reduce the amount of heat you lose. Pockets created between each pair of panes act as insulators. Heat will transfer easily through one single pane of glass because hot air outside and cool air inside are both affecting that pane.
How does this work? Heat transfers more easily through a single, solid surface, which that one pane of glass represents. Add another pane of glass and a sealed space between those two panes, and now that heat transfer is being asked to take place in that vacuum or pocket of air in the middle.
- Close the Blinds
When the sun shines on a surface, that surface gets hot. Even if the hot air isn’t making it through, the sun is. That light warms surfaces inside your home, which then radiate heat. Your air conditioner has to work harder to compensate.
Simply closing the blinds or curtains means that light isn’t getting in anymore. If you’re not using a room, let it be dark. You won’t have to worry about the sun heating it up.
What does landscaping have to do with home energy efficiency challenges? Quite a lot. Trees and bushes can shade the eastern and western side of your home (where the sun shines when it rises and sets). The sun is no longer pounding down on an entire face of your home. Trees are giving your home shade, which means your home’s surface won’t heat up.
Even the best insulation and most complete building envelope will still see heat transfer over time. As the sun shines for hours on a single side of your home, it will heat up and make your air conditioning work harder. By providing shade to your home, you prevent it from heating up as drastically.
- Is a Home Energy Audit Worth It?
A home energy audit can test for air leakage in your HVAC ducts and in your building envelope. If you feel you’re wasting a lot of energy, an audit conducted by a RESNET Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater can be very helpful in identifying a number of home energy efficiency challenges. Home energy auditors can determine the best steps to resolve any issues they find, and as an added benefit, they can also advise you if they find any health or safety issues.
Such an audit can help you identify gaps, cracks, and other leaks that need to be better sealed. This can happen around windows, vents, duct registers, plumbing, exhaust fans, and in the building envelope itself. There may also be internal issues with leaks to attics and crawl spaces that aren’t covered by your HVAC system.
- What Can Be Done?
It’s not that much effort to seal and insulate ducts or add newly insulated spaces. Sometimes the problem is as simple as needing an air conditioner replaced with a high efficiency model. If you have appliances that aren’t ENERGY STAR rated, these may also require replacement.
You can already see how many simple habits are listed here that don’t have any added cost. Obviously, glazed windows or better sealing and insulation do have a cost, but they’ll very quickly save you more on your energy bills than you spend on having the work done.
Even some of the more expensive options, such as replacing an air conditioner with a high efficiency model, end up saving costs over a few years. Beyond this, replacing major appliances with energy efficient versions often earn you state and federal tax credits.
- Solving Home Energy Efficiency Challenges
Owning a home in Florida poses so many challenges when it comes to the energy bill. This is a big reason why so many new houses are built with exceptional energy efficient home design in place. These homes can save hundreds or even thousands a year simply because the science on energy efficient design and materials has come so far.
You can close that gap somewhat by adopting a few new habits, having an energy audit done, and taking action about what needs to be changed. You can find yourself saving hundreds a year. If you’re replacing an appliance or getting a home energy audit done, do it sooner rather than later.
As for those small habits you can change to improve energy efficiency, don’t try to do every step here at once. Habits are best formed when you get one down all the way and then move to the next one!
Synergy Homes proudly serves South Florida custom and model home buyers by building high-performance, energy-efficient houses that deliver exceptional value, cumulative cost savings, undeniable comfort and – most importantly – the sense of home. A certified Energy Rater inspects every Synergy-built home, and each Gold and Platinum Series home is up to 50% more energy efficient than average new construction homes and up to 75% more energy efficient than existing homes. For more details, contact us today.