KWH counter representing air conditioning energy use

Although we are moving into the Christmas season, the past couple years have proven that in Florida that doesn’t mean much! Although the rest of the country is starting to see temperatures drop as we head into the end of the year, Florida remains at comfortable temperatures fit for the beach. As such, the winter is no time to slack off on implementing strategies to keep your cooling costs down! There are many ways to minimize your cooling bill regardless of the time of year, and the following are a few tips we have learned are highly effective.

Additional Greenery Around the House

One way to reduce your cooling costs is to keep the sun from hitting your home in the first place. Although not an option for everybody, adding plant-life around your home and planting trees to shade your roof will work wonders to cut your cooling costs. This can come in a variety of forms to suit your local environment.

Bushes or shrubs in front of the windows can minimize the amount of sunlight that passes into your home during sunrise or sunset, especially if these are planted on the east and west sides of the home. Speaking of which, if the front of your home faces in either of these directions, a tall tree can help provide shade over the coming months. Obviously, being a Florida resident, a tall tree is a double-edged sword. True, it can provide shade, but if not properly embedded into the ground it could prove a hazard during hurricane season. It is for this reason we would recommend smaller plants in front of windows instead.

Make Use of Curtains and Blinds

While it can be tempting to let in as much natural lighting as possible on sunny days, doing so only serves to raise the cooling costs. Remember that the objective is to keep the sun from entering your home in the first place, and throwing open the blinds runs contrary to this goal. Dark, thick curtains and blinds help to provide shade to the interior of your home and prevent heat-generating light from getting into the property. You can adjust these blinds or curtains to only allow just enough light in for visibility while keeping the bulk of the heat out.

As a note, this tactic can also be used to keep the house warm if the temperature drops suddenly. Blinds and curtains are good insulators in general for keeping the cold air cold, and the warm air warm.

Another good option for window treatments are solar shades and window films that can block as much as 70% of incoming solar energy. These can help to keep your home cool as well while still letting the light in.

Adjust the Thermostat, or Make It Smart

When you’re not at home it is OK to let the temperatures rise a bit. Furthermore, at night you do not need to keep things strictly cold since everybody will be in bed. As such, it is perfectly fine to adjust the thermostat up a bit when you are leaving the house for the day or when you are going to bed at night. A programmable thermostat can take care of this for you.

Letting the home raise by four or five degrees will help reduce your cooling costs overall during the day by a greater amount than it would cost to reduce the temperature back to a comfortable level. Furthermore, by using a smart thermostat you can even program it to lower the temperature about an hour or two before you return – making the house nice and cool by the time you walk in the door.

Limit Use of Heat Generating Appliances

Appliances like the stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer all produce a lot of heat. You probably notice this when you put your hand near these devices while they are operating, and likely do not think about it during the day. However, your air conditioner is having to work extra hard to keep things cool while these heat sources raise the internal temperature of the home degree by degree. If your AC is also having to fight the sun at the same time, it is burning far more energy than it needs to.

You can reduce your cooling cost simply by limiting how much you use these appliances, and restricting when you use them to night. Waiting until after 8pm will minimize the work your air conditioner has to put in in order to keep the house cool since it is only fighting these appliances and not the sun as well.

Maintain Your Air Conditioning

It goes without saying, but performing basic maintenance on your air conditioner will go a long way towards reducing your cooling costs. Rising energy bills can be as much the consequence of a dirty filter as anything else. You will want to replace or clean your air filter once a month at the very least in order to prevent the buildup of dust that increases the workload of your air conditioner unit. This is also good advice just for maintaining indoor air quality.

You’ll also want to go outside once in a while and make sure the unit is clear of debris. If fallen leaves or other detritus keeps the air conditioner from properly circulating air in and out of the house, it can easily lead to higher energy costs.

These are just a few of the ways to help reduce the costs of using your air conditioner. Do not let the time of year lure you into complacency: we know that just because it is December that doesn’t mean we can’t be ambushed by a freak heat wave or other sudden increase in temperatures. Never underestimate the ability of the weather to ambush you with unseasonable warmth. By maintaining your air conditioner, keeping the sun out, and maintaining a few other best practices you can keep your home comfortable without a surprise energy bill.