Stay Cool with Smart Saving Strategies
Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, UF/IFAS Extension, Urban Sustainability Agent
It’s hot out there and if you’ve lived in Florida for some time, you know that we’ve still got a long way to go before summer is officially over. In the Sunshine State, we rely on our Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system to keep us cool and manage humidity levels in our home. The HVAC accounts for 40% of our electric consumption and this comfort giant comes with a huge price tag at the end of the month.
Despite the costs of keeping cool, there are many strategies that you can use to maintain your energy bills at a reasonable rate. In this article we’ll review some short term solutions to improve efficiency of your existing system and explore long term solutions if your current system is not performing up to par.
To improve the efficiency of your current system, use these short term strategies –
- Set your thermostat at 78oF or higher – every degree below 78 adds 8% to your electric bill
- Use bath and kitchen fans sparingly when the unit is operating
- Reduce your cooling load
- Perform regular maintenance
- Use ceiling fans to circulate air
- Install a programmable thermostat – this will help manage your settings and maximize savings
A useful long term strategy is to evaluate if your current system meets your needs. If your system is not cooling properly or there have been some household changes, you might need a replacement. Purchasing a new system is quite an investment but it’s worth the time to familiarize yourself with these terms –
- AHU, and
SEER is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating and is defined as the ratio of the average amount of cooling per unit of electricity used. Federal regulations mandate a minimum of 13 SEER for residential use – you could certainly purchase a higher SEER unit but bigger is not always better. It’s also important to consider the Sensible Heat Ratio or SHR which describes the moisture removal capacity of the air conditioning system. For example, a SHR of 0.7 means that 70% is devoted to cooling and 30% to removing humidity. The AHU or Air Handler Unit should be placed in conditioned space so that any air leaks occur in conditioned space. If you’re upgrading your AHU, you should upgrade the condenser (outside component) to maximize your unit’s efficiency. Proper placement will guarantee that there are no blocks to air flow.
When you consider the complex interactions of SEER and SHR, you begin to realize how important it is to hire a licensed contractor. Be sure your contractor can answer questions identified in this UF Factsheet. For information about ducts and insulation, use the resources below to ensure that your overall system is performing optimally.
Above all else, it’s important to recognize that whether you have a new system or an old system, your behavior affects the system’s efficiency and your level of comfort. Remember to interact with your thermostat – set it higher or lower when you are away from the home or get a programmable thermostat to help manage your settings. Also, be sure to dress appropriately, if you’re wearing long pants and long sleeves, you’re less likely to feel comfortable in your house during the summer.
Saving energy saves money and protects the environment.