Cool It!

dogJames Stevenson,
Pinellas County Extension Specialist,
Urban Sustainability

Can you feel the hot breath of summer on your neck? Yes, another beautiful and enviable winter and spring are soon to be a thing of the past. We shall will soon be cranking-down the temperatures in our homes to do battle with the heat and humidity that Central Florida is famous for (but would you want to live anywhere else??)

It is a perfect time to make sure your cooling system is operating as efficiently as possible so you won’t be leaking $20 bills through cracks in your system. Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) accounts for more than 40% of the average home’s energy bill (FCS3262, 2008.)

Of course one of the easiest things to do to improve your system’s efficiency is to change the air filter(s) associated with your system. This allows the system to operate without having to draw (work) harder to get air through the ductwork.

Another simple task is to make sure the outdoor unit (condenser) is not obstructed by plants or structures that might impede air flow. A tree shading the unit helps keep it a bit cooler, making its job easier, but fallen leaves clogging the in and out flow can decrease efficiency. Check the owner’s manual and make sure the power is shut off to the unit if you intend to do any work to clear debris from the surface.

The indoor unit of the AC is the air handler. This is where the real chilling takes place. Within this unit is the evaporator coil which is a virtual dust magnet. This coil is often moist due to normal condensation. The moisture traps dust and dirt and must be kept clean to work efficiently. Again, refer to your owner’s manual and shut the power off to the unit if you intend to do this easy maintenance.

There are other common-sense measures you can take to keep your system running smoothly. Draw the blinds across west-facing windows to shield them from blaring afternoon sun. Use ceiling fans (only when you are in the room.) A thermostat set at 78˚ will feel like 74˚ with the cooling breeze created by these Florida fixtures. Installing a an EnergyStar® rated programmable thermostat is another DIY task that could help make your system run more efficiently and save you some money! Click here for advice on choosing a programmable thermostat.

Beyond these simple tasks, unit maintenance is really best left to the professionals. Luckily our local power company will pay 50% up to $30 to for a qualified participating contractor to inspect your entire duct system. Leaks in duct work can result in huge losses to a system’s efficiency. Should you require any repair work to your duct work (and by the way, despite its name that magic tape is NOT suitable for repairing duct work) Progress Energy will pay up to $150 for repairs to ducts. For more information on these incentives, click here.

Keeping your HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently will certainly help you save on your energy bill, and doing so will contribute to a wider-ranging savings on energy consumption throughout our area.


UF/IFAS Energy Efficient Homes: Air Conditioning
EnergyStar Heating and Cooling
Progress Energy


Posted: May 5, 2009

Category: Home Management, Work & Life

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