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 STEP 4 - Target Heating and Cooling

​In south Florida, cooling represents over 40 percent of our energy consumption… the single largest end-use of energy in our homes. Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to reduce the amount of energy used to keep our homes cool… without sacrificing comfort.
Change the Filter
Dirt and neglect are the major cause of heating and cooling system inefficiency and failure. ENERGY STAR recommends you check your air conditioning filter every month during periods of heavy use. If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months according to manufacturer's directions. Follow the manufacturer's directions for routine maintenance by a qualified technician, also.
Seal The Ductwork
According to Florida Power & Light Company, two-thirds of all homes have leaky ductwork. Most of these homes are losing 20 percent of their cooling through the leaks.
Look for holes, tears and other signs of leaking ducts and seal them.  
You can seal accessible ductwork yourself. Always seal air leaks using duct mastic sealant or metal tape. Never use duct tape because it doesn't stand up to time. Insulate the ducts in unconditioned areas with duct insulation – usually rigid fiberboard – that has an R-value of 6 or higher.
Also, make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling – common sites for air leaks.
If ducts are inaccessible you will need a contractor to do the work. Most heating and cooling equipment contractors also repair ductwork. During their appointment, the contractor should:
  • Inspect the whole duct system, including the attic, crawlspace and garage.
  • Evaluate the system's supply and return air balance. Many systems have air return ducts that are too small.
  • Repair damaged and disconnected ducts and straighten out flexible ducts that are tangled or crushed.
  • Seal all leaks and connections with duct mastic, metal tape, or an aerosol-based sealant.
  • Seal all registers and grills tightly to the ducts.
  • Insulate ducts in unconditioned areas with duct insulation that carries an R-value of 6 or higher.
  • Include a new filter as part of any duct system improvement.
  • Evaluate air flow after repairs are completed.
  • Ensure there is no back drafting of gas or oil-burning appliances, and conduct a combustion safety test.

 Energy Saving Checklists

Investment Checklist.pdfInvestment Checklist
Low Cost Checklist.pdfLow Cost Checklist
Moderate Cost Checklist.pdfModerate Cost Checklist
No Cost Checklist.pdfNo Cost Checklist
change air filter

 Install a Programmable Thermostat

An ENERGY STAR-qualified programmable thermostat allows you to automatically change cooling and heating temperatures according to a pre-set schedule, using less cooling or heating when you are asleep or away from the house. Save approximately 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10 degrees – 15 degrees for eight hours.

Set the Temperature for Savings
Summer: Keep the thermostat at 78 degrees or warmer with the thermostat fan switched to auto. Raise your thermostat to 82 degrees or warmer when you're away for more savings.

Winter: Keep the thermostat at 68 degrees or cooler with the thermostat fan switched to auto. Lower your thermostat to 65 degrees or cooler at night or when you're away from home.

Upgrade Your Old Heating and Cooling System
Older Heating and Cooling equipment uses more energy and creates a less comfortable environment. Replace older units with an ENERGY STAR-qualified model at the highest efficiency rating you can afford (compare the SEER/EER ratings for savings). Find a Heating and Cooling contractor who follows ENERGY STAR installation guidelines to ensure proper installation and sizing. Improper installation can reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent – costing you more on your utility bills and possibly shortening the equipment's life.
ENERGY STAR's 10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor
Depending on your location, a switch to a new ENERGY STAR central air conditioner can cut your annual energy bill by up to $200.
Heat Pumps provide both heating and cooling in one integrated system. Electric Air-Source Heat Pumps use the difference between outdoor and indoor air temperatures to cool and heat. Geothermal Heat Pumps use the ground's temperature to efficiently provide heating, cooling, and even heating water.

See ENERGY STAR for information on choosing:

 Central Air Conditioning
 Air-Source Heat Pumps
 Geothermal Heat Pumps
 Ductless or Mini-Split Systems

Down-Size When Possible

A larger unit doesn't necessarily produce better cooling. In fact, an oversized air conditioner is actually less effective and wastes energy. A properly sized unit will remove humidity effectively as it cools for a more comfortable home. 

Your contractor should measure your home and use the right method for calculating heating and cooling loads to determine the size of your air conditioner before installation. Correct system sizing considers the local climate, size/shape/orientation of your house, insulation levels, windows, air infiltration rates and the number and ages of all occupants, among other factors.

Request that your contractor calculate the proper size of your new heat pump or central AC  according to Manual J, "Residential Load Calculation," published by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

After installation, you can request all manuals and documentation of installation procedures, including Manual J calculations, AHRI certificate, and records of any measurements or testing.  

Top Tip!

Before you install a new air conditioner or heat pump, upgrade your home's overall energy efficiency by sealing gaps and leaks in walls, floors, and ceilings; caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows; making sure attic insulation is adequate; and sealing ductwork. You'll probably be able to use a smaller unit than you did before.

See Energy Saving Checklists For Your Home (tips vary based on the cost of the improvements):


 No Cost
 Low Cost (<$75)
 Moderate ($75 to $600)
 Investment (>$600)
This program receives funding from the US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program. 

Sarasota County, Florida
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