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Ask the Expert: Heating vs. Cooling – Which costs more?

Ask the Expert: Heating vs. Cooling – Which costs more?

by | Dec 4, 2018 | 0 comments

What costs more – heating or cooling?

Asked by: Patricia M., Venice, FL

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You may be surprised to hear that heating is more expensive because most houses in Florida use electric resistance strip heaters which use more energy, so it does cost more to run the heat in your home than it does to cool it. While extreme cold weather is rare in Florida, we can always count on at least one good cold snap to drive higher energy bills if you turn on your heat.

When you are cooling an area, you are taking the excess heat from inside your home and moving it outside. Next time you run your A/C, put your hand near the outside unit – you’ll be able to feel the heat that used to be in your house coming out of it.

In contrast, if you heat with electric resistance heating, you are converting electrical energy to heat energy. It takes a lot of electricity to make heat, which will then drive up your energy consumption. It is far less expensive to move heat from one place to another than it is to make it by converting energy.

The heating systems in most Florida homes are not energy-efficient and can cost a lot more to operate. In fact, it can take up to three times more electricity to heat a home than to cool it, which equates to a higher bill.

Most efficient way to heat your home
The most efficient way to heat your home is with an electric heat pump – but, most homes in Florida don’t have a heat pump. Instead, they rely on a heating element in their HVAC system.

Heat pumps are more efficient and can help you save money if you live in a colder part of the state, or if you run the heat often in the winter. In fact, those who use heat frequently could save up to $75 per year heating with a heat pump system compared to a standard HVAC system.

How to save money on heating costs
If you heat your home with an HVAC system, here are some suggestions to save money:

  1. Heat only the parts of your home that you’re using. Heating your whole house is more expensive than heating part of it. Use space heaters or heating panels in the rooms that you actually use. This works only for small spaces – if you are heating your whole house, using space heaters will cost more than central air.
  2. Adjust your living environment so that you’re comfortable at lower temperatures. Put rugs on bare floors, use heating pads and personal heaters to keep yourself warm. You can also wear thick socks, slippers, and layered clothing. Warming yourself is a lot cheaper than trying to warm your whole house. Once you’re warm, turn your thermostat down to 67°F or lower to save energy.
  3. Your home’s insulation is your first step to lower heating costs. Good insulation prevents your home from leaking precious heat. Another thing to focus on is the quality of your doors and windows, as they can cause loss of heat in winter months. Weather stripping doors and windows can help insulate your home and keep heat from escaping.
  4. Turn the heat off when you don’t need it. Turn your heat off (or way down) at night, and when you’re away from home. Contrary to popular myth, it does not cost more to re-heat the home than it does to constantly heat it.
  5. Use ceiling fans. Yes, ceiling fans can actually make you warmer. In the winter, you simply put the fan on the lowest speed so the fan isn’t fast enough for the wind chill effect to kick in. It will be fast enough to push down the warm air that collects near the ceiling. (Remember, hot air rises.) So the key is: fast speed for summer, slow speed for winter. If the fan gives you a wind-chill effect on the slow speed, just change the fan’s direction by using the switch on the side. In the winter, having the fan blow air UP will push warm air off the ceiling, along the walls, and toward the floor without rushing past and cooling you. Ceiling fans use very little electricity and can make a BIG difference in your comfort level.
  6. When installing a new HVAC system, don’t oversize it. Most HVAC installers install a bigger system than you need. This doesn’t warm your home any better, and you just wind up spending a lot more for installation. Get a system no larger than what your house requires. Installing more efficient equipment is a surefire way to reduce your energy cost/consumption.
  7. What else? Finally, getting your equipment professionally tuned-up every year can make a huge difference in efficient and safe operation.

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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