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Ask the Expert: Managing home heating costs before cooler temperatures arrive

Ask the Expert: Managing home heating costs before cooler temperatures arrive

by | Sep 21, 2018 | 0 comments

My energy bill was much higher than expected last year. What I can do to save on my energy bill this winter?

Joyce  H, Indialantic, FL

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While our cold weather is not as severe as our neighbors to the north, we all know that the “Florida cold” we experience can still be enough to turn on the heat.

The reality is that heating systems in most Florida homes are inefficient and can cost a lot more to operate. In fact, it can take two to three times more energy to heat a home than to cool it, which can mean a higher bill.

Just as we prepare our homes for warm weather, there are some key things you can do to prepare your Florida home for cooler weather. The key is finding the perfect balance between comfort and lower energy bills. Here are a few tips that can help cut down on your energy costs this winter:

Adjust your thermostat. There’s no good reason to keep your home heated to your comfort level when you’re out for the day or on vacation. Making your home cooler during the winter, even by a few degrees, can add up the savings. While it does depend on personal preference, our experts typically find that setting your thermostat to about 68-72 degrees is perfect for the daytime when you are home. If you’re not at home during the day, we recommend 66 degrees. In the evening, you can even set the temperature back by a few degrees more, since you’re going to be snuggled, bundled, and sleeping anyway.

Invest in a smart thermostat. Do you have a smart thermostat? If not, we recommend investing in one. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to comfort, but a smart thermostat can simplify the chore of creating optimal settings.

We tested both simple and sophisticated smart thermostats in South Florida single family homes and found the A/C savings for both to be the same. All the savings measured came from reduced cooling. On average, homes saved 450 kWh per year or about $50.

Consider adding insulation. Poor insulation could raise your energy bills when you’re trying to heat up your home. Adding insulation to your home can help. We recommend spray foam insulation. Unlike traditional insulation, spray foam significantly lowers your energy costs for heating during the cold months, as well as for cooling during the summer months. It also has other benefits, which include creating an airtight seal designed to keep indoor air in and outdoor air out.

Sign up for a free FPL Home Energy Survey by calling 1-800-DIAL-FPL (1-800-342-5375) and an Energy Expert will visit your home to determine if you qualify for an insulation rebate. If your home was build before 1982, your home may qualify for the rebate.

Ensure proper maintenance for your HVAC system.

  • Schedule a full service A/C checkup. Right now is the perfect time to schedule a tune-up for your HVAC system. A regular maintenance check can ensure that your heating and cooling system is running properly, saving energy and saving you money.
  • Do self-maintenance between scheduled tune-ups. Remember to change air filters regularly —a clogged filter makes your system work harder. And check around your outside unit periodically to make sure shrubs, leaves or tall grass are not clogging the vents. You need airflow through all sides to cool the coil.

Look into upgrading to a high-efficiency, A/C system for your home. Depending on the size and efficiency of your current A/C, a new cooling system could save you money on your energy bill. For example, if you upgrade an older three-ton A/C with a new, higher efficiency model, you could save around $377 annually. Consider a new A/C if your unit is more than 10 years old or it needs frequent repairs. Visit our Residential Air Conditioning program page to learn how to qualify.

Have your air ducts cleaned, inspected and sealed for leaks. Once leaks are sealed, air is delivered more effectively and your HVAC system can operate more efficiently.

Seal cracks around windows and doors. Sealing cracks around windows and doors is an easy step you can take to prevent warm air from escaping during the cool months. Even small cracks can let a significant amount of cold air in, which will decrease your home’s comfort, put stress on your A/C unit, and increase your energy costs.

Use ceiling fans. Running ceiling fans clockwise pushes warm air back down into your room, helping keep a stable warm temperature. There’s a switch on all ceiling fans to swap between clockwise and counter, so be sure it’s set correctly.

We are always here to help you find ways to save energy and money. To see more heating and cooling tips, visit our Guide to Heating and Cooling. You may also want to take our Online Home Energy Survey to get a personalized savings plan with energy-saving tips and recommendations, including programs and rebates that may be able to help you save even more money.

 

About The Author

Brad Goar

Brad Goar is the program manager for FPL's Home Energy Survey and Low Income Weatherization programs. With over 140,000 home energy surveys performed annually, FPL's Home Energy Survey is one of the largest utility run energy survey programs in the nation.

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