During the months of May through December, one of the most dreaded responsibilities for Floridians is their electricity bill. Unlike other parts of the country, Florida winters and early spring months bring comfortable weather and lower utility bills. In May, when the temperature starts to rise, so does the cost of energy. An increase in the cost of energy often persuades efforts to be more energy conscious.
It is common to find energy saving features in new homes. From advanced house framing to cool roofs, the design concept incorporates both budgetary concerns and the environmental movement. However, older structures can face challenges in reaching the same goals. Due to old construction, to become energy efficient in older homes may require expensive upgrades.
If the budget to renovate isn’t on the calendar for this year, there are a few low budget steps that can help homeowners with older homes save money and become almost as efficient as newer models. The first step to take is to understand energy usage.
Before you can create a plan of action, you have to determine how the home is currently operating. The first step is to evaluate energy usage and identify the effectiveness of your the structural components.
An energy audit will allow you to list areas of concern and then create a blueprint for improvement. There are three ways to survey the home:
- The DIY method puts the homeowner in charge to do a careful walk-through of the house to determine possible issues.
- To ensure accuracy, the homeowner can hire a professional energy auditor to examine each room using various tools and utility records to analyze energy usage.
- Combination of the DIY method and hiring a professional energy auditor will allow the owner to compare his investigation with the finding of a professional.
A completed assessment will create a list of repairs to estimate costs and establish an affordable budget. Depending on the results, the homeowner may prefer to start with simple changes that will make your home more efficient.
Light The Way
Years ago, homes generally used 60-watt bulbs and a couple of fluorescent bulbs, for the bath or kitchen, to light the home. In today’s market, the light bulb aisle has a variety of light bulbs specifically designed to save energy. In older homes, most of the fixtures have the same specifications for light bulbs. But, you almost need a degree in light bulb technology to determine which bulb is the best purchase.
Luckily, the major home improvement stores, such as Lowes offer guides to help the buyer understand product options. Although these bulbs may initially cost more at the time of purchase, they pay for themselves by using lower wattage with a longer lifespan.
Fill In The Gaps
As buildings age, they settle and adjust into the ground. Settling affects many aspects of the home, especially around windows and doors. A closed window gives the illusion that air does not enter or escape from the home. But, the normal shifting of a building creates cracks and gaps throughout the structure, especially around the windows and doors. Caulking around the window pane, replacing weather stripping around doors and sealing any gaps in the wood will keep the cool air inside and the heat outside.
Since the Florida sun is hot enough to cook an egg on the sidewalk, the most important place in the home to insulate is the attic. The sun heats the roof and the attic becomes an oven. The floor of the attic is hot which makes the ceilings of the house hot. The air conditioner works harder to cool the home.
Insulating the underside of the roof and the floor will prevent the attic from getting too hot. For older homes that have retractable attic ladders in the ceiling, an attic stairway insulation cover can add additional protection and prevent heat from seeping through the attic door.
An air conditioner that gets regular maintenance is an air conditioner that runs efficiently. It is best to inspect the air conditioner in April or the beginning of May. This will give you time to make repairs before the air conditioner becomes essential to comfortable living.
The air conditioner filter should be changed every 90 days for homes without a pet and every 60 days for homes with a pet. For multiple pets and residents with allergies or breathing conditions, change the filter every 20-45 days.
Vents and ducts should be cleaned every 3-6 years.
Small Stuff Matters
Other small tasks can make older homes more efficient:
- Clean awnings and make sure they are angled to provide shade
- Keep your blinds closed or tilted up during the day
- Use room darkening curtains to keep rooms cool
- Use ceiling or standing fans along with air conditioners to improve circulation
- Select a couple of days to cook large meals in the oven then use the microwave to reheat food throughout the week.
When the budget is right, upgrades to doors, windows, and siding can enhance the energy efficiency of older homes. In the meantime, you can easily make a few minor changes that will make a big difference.