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Thursday, July 30, 2009

How To: Save Money, Go Green I: Air Conditioning

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

The summer air is buzzing with the sound of cicadas, signaling that we are well-into the sultry days. The air is also buzzing with the sound of a million air conditioning units, doing their best to keep us cool and collected in our homes and businesses.

It should be no surprise that in Florida air conditioning (AC) consumes more energy than any other electrical appliance. In fact, AC accounts for 40% of your monthly energy bill.

Would you like to see your energy bill shrink? There are three ways to cut costs that are easy, affordable and can make a BIG difference.

Start by making sure your AC unit is working at its utmost efficiency level. An annual inspection and cleaning of both the indoor (air handler) coil and outdoor (condenser) coil. Dirt and debris make these gizmos work harder and draw on more energy.

Check your refrigerant charge. The “blood” of your system has to be maintained at a certain pressure. Higher or lower can cause problems (this requires a professional inspection.)

Reduce the cooling load to the structure by providing shade or drawing blinds on east and west-facing windows.

Don’t invite trouble! Keep doors and windows shut tightly.

Use ceiling fans, but use them wisely. In summer ceiling fans work best when operated in a counter-clockwise rotating position. Ceiling fans work by making inhabitants FEEL cooler. They do not actually COOL a room; only run them when the room is occupied. In fact, ceiling fans can make the room feel 4 degrees F cooler.

Consider upping the setting on your system. 76 degrees F is the “sweet-spot” where the most energy is conserved, comfort is not sacrificed and mold/mildew is not encouraged.

Finally, consider installing a programmable thermostat. These inexpensive devices can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Simple to use, you can control the times of operation with as many settings as you wish (depending on the model.) We recommend using a model that has been certified by Energy Star® as evidenced by carrying its distinctive logo.

OK, here is your list of things-to-do, we will be contacting you in a month’s time to see if you made any of these changes in your home/office. Everyone saving just a little energy will add-up to a huge impact now and for the future. But in the meantime, you might just like those few extra dollars in your pocket!!


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