Seasonal winter weather has finally arrived across the Clearwater and Tampa Bay area.
Although Florida winters are mild (and even warm at times), local residents usually expect to see an increase in utility costs for their house, townhome or condo—often blaming the rise in rates on their air conditioning (AC) units.
However, we’re here to tell you there are actually plenty of other factors outside of your heating and cooling system that impact energy inside your Florida home, and the good news is, there’s something you can do about it.
Read on to learn why your energy bill may be high and what you can do to save on costs this winter.
Why is My Energy Bill So High?
It’s easy to blame an increase in your electric bill on heating or cooling, but there are plenty of other culprits using energy in your Florida home. Below we’ll identify a select few to help you understand what’s behind the rising rates and what to do about them.
Many of our Clearwater and Gulf Coast beach customers have residential swimming pools and run their pool pumps 24 hours a day. According to the Florida Public Service Commission, the monthly energy cost for pool pumping averages $62. If operated continuously year-round, this could add up to $744 in annual energy costs.
Pool companies and experts advise against turning off the pool pump completely during the winter, which could cause damage to the pool pump circulating system. Instead, homeowners should consider investing in a pump timer (average one-time cost of $100-150) and operate their pool pump only six hours a day instead of 24 hours a day, which could save you an average of $558 annually—helping your energy bills reduce significantly each year.
Ceiling, Floor and Wall Leaks
Often times, Florida residents feel a chill inside their home because their ceiling, floor and walls lack adequate insulation. In the winter, cooled air can seep through the walls, floors or attic into your house below. When this happens, your AC system has to work harder to heat your home.
One of the best investments you can make towards lowering your heating costs this winter is improving your insulation. The older your home, the more likely you are to need insulation improvements.
If you’re unsure of how much insulation you need, you can conduct an in-home energy audit through Air Care, or try Duke Energy Florida’s newly updated online Home Energy Check tool for Pinellas County residents. Visit Duke’s Home Energy Check website for more information and to learn about the utility provider’s attic insultation upgrade program.
You can also contact Air Care today to request an in-home energy audit or HVAC system checkup today.
Window and Door Leaks
Humidity exists even in mild Florida winters and can easily make its way into your home through cracks around your windows, doors, fireplace shafts, and more. In older homes, jalousie windows can also be a problem, since these windows were originally meant for cross breezes versus closed tight during the cool winters and warm summers.
In Florida homes, about 38% of your AC’s work and operating costs goes towards drying out moist air leaking in from the outside. If doors and windows are not properly insulated, this moist air can even lead to mold growth within your home or AC unit.
If you have leaky doors or windows, your AC system will run more frequently and longer to compensate for unwanted moisture inside your home, resulting in rising energy costs over time. Some residents choose the DIY approach to weather stripping or caulking their windows or doors, which can save 10-20% on their heating and cooling bills. (Check out these easy Duke Energy tutorials on how to install weather stripping on doors and windows here, or how to caulk around doors and windows here.)
Others choose to install new windows or doors altogether. If you decide to take this route, be sure to take advantage of Duke’s energy efficient window program for rebates on new windows and doors.
For more advice on how efficient windows and doors affect your HVAC system, contact Air Care today.
Similar to the leaky culprits above, “doggy doors” and “cat flaps” can easily cause unwanted air and humidity in your home.
If you already have a pet door installed, check for leaks in and around the frame or flap, and have it repaired if you find unwanted air entering your home.
Still on the fence on whether to install one? We recommend against installing pet doors altogether for this very reason—it’s hard to keep conditioned air inside and unwanted, outdoor air from entering into your home.
Do you have an old refrigerator or freezer in your garage? While this may seem like a good idea for food storage and to clear space for your indoor appliances, it can cost a lot to operate.
That’s because garages can be hot, especially in Florida homes. Old refrigerators are also not very energy efficient, likely compared to the one that’s inside your kitchen now. (In fact, if your new refrigerator was manufactured after January 1, 1993, it’s likely two to three times more efficient than anything manufactured prior to that date.)
How big of a cost difference can there really be? Well, if a new, 25 cubic high-efficiency refrigerator costs about $5-6 per month to operate, your old inefficient one in a hot garage can cost anywhere from $25-50, especially in the summer months. (It’s less in the winter, but it can still cause an increase in operating costs.)
In lieu of that old refrigerator in your garage, we recommend properly disposing of it and spending time to organize your newer indoor fridge one instead.
Other Ways to Save on Utility Costs
Want to save money and reduce energy in your Tampa Bay home? Duke Energy Florida recommends you start by identifying and prioritizing energy-saving improvements. This includes:
- Performing an energy audit. As stated above, Duke Energy Florida offers free Home Energy Checks to help Bay Area customers identify how they can reduce their electric use and save money. Through this service—which can be performed through an online assessment, over the phone or in person—Duke’s advisors provide energy-saving recommendations and determine your eligibility for company rebates toward energy-efficient improvements.
- Lowering your thermostat. You may save as much as 3% on your energy bill for each degree you lower your thermostat.
- Install smart thermostats. Consider installing a “smart” or programmable thermostat to reduce your energy use while you are asleep or away. At Air Care, we recommend a Honeywell programmable thermostat.
- Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes your heating and cooling system work harder, which uses more energy. We recommend you check yours at least every 30 days.
- Seal air ducts. It’s important that your home’s central AC unit air ducts are properly sealed. AC ducts that leak into the attic or crawl space can substantially increase your heating bills during the winter months.
- Manage water heating. Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or consider installing an AQUEFIER® heat recovery unit, which can cut your electric bills down by as much as 15% and water heating costs by 50%.
- Utilize ceiling fans. During the winter, switch your ceiling fans to a clockwise direction, which pushes warmed air back down into your room.
- Have your HVAC system regularly checked and serviced by Air Care. Our qualified heating and air conditioning professionals at Air Care will help your HVAC system heat your home efficiently during the winter months. We recommend a bi-annual checkup to ensure your system runs at peak performance all year long.
Conserve Energy: Speak with a Local AC Company Today
Many of these HVAC system cost savings can be assessed and addressed by your AC professionals at Air Care.
Air Care is a top AC company in Clearwater, Florida. We proudly serve customers in Pinellas, western Hillsborough and southern Pasco counties—helping them with their AC maintenance, repair and installation needs.
Contact Air Care to learn how to save energy with your HVAC system today.
“I’ve saved money on my electric bill every year with my heat recovery unit. After 21 years of savings, I just had to have one installed when I moved to my new home. Now with our electric prices still climbing, I’m glad to know that every time I hear my air conditioning come on, I’m still saving money. You need to get one for your home, too!”– Don F., homeowner in Largo, FL
Contact Air Care to get started.
Duke Energy: Duke Energy prepares Florida customers for higher winter energy bills
Florida Public Service Commission: 105 Causes of High Utility Bills
Orlando Sentinel: Giving pool pump a break in winter may cost you later