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78493620 (2)Taking steps to cut your energy use can really save you some money, especially when it comes to the high cooling bills we get in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Energy conservation isn’t the only way to lower your bills, though. Improving your home’s energy efficiency also helps.

Energy Conservation vs. Energy Efficiency

Energy conservation and energy efficiency improvements aren’t the same thing, even though both can lower energy bills. Conservation simply means using less energy. You can conserve energy by not turning on the lights until well after dusk or by raising the thermostat in summer or lowering it in winter.

You won’t use as much energy, but you’ll also have less light and possibly less comfortable temperatures. Improving energy efficiency, on the other hand, means keeping your home just as well-lit and comfortably heated or cooled as you want, but using less electricity or fuel to do so. There are many ways to accomplish this.

Seal and Insulate the Home Envelope

Air leaks around the home cause drafts, waste conditioned air, and let in air contaminants. Sealing these leaky cracks and gaps improves energy efficiency by helping to maintain indoor temperatures and decreasing the load on the furnace or air conditioner.

Leaks are most common around:

  • Windows and doors
  • Baseboards and crown molding
  • Electrical outlets and switches
  • Penetrations for appliance vents
  • Penetrations for utility lines (electrical, gas, water, and phone)
  • Fireplace
  • Attic hatch

These leaks can be sealed with weatherstripping for movable parts and caulk for non-moveable parts. Both weatherstripping and caulk are available in a number of different varieties for use in different locations or on different materials. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before buying a product.

For some drafty areas, specially designed insulation is available. This includes foam gaskets for electrical outlets and switches, and attic hatch insulation kits.

Old, damaged, and single-pane windows waste energy. Installing new Energy Star-qualified windows could lower energy bills by 7 to 15 percent. Installing storm windows or covering the inside of windows with sheets of heavy plastic also improves wintertime energy efficiency.

Once you’ve sealed the leaks, consider improving home insulation levels. First, check the attic. If it has only a few inches of insulation, adding another R-25 to R-38 layer, which is at least 8 inches of fiberglass batts.

Adding insulation to the walls and floors also helps. Loose-fill, blown-in insulation can be added to these areas without the need for major reconstruction. To find out if you need more wall or floor insulation, contact a heating and cooling professional for a home energy audit.

Seal and Insulate the Ducts

The furnace and air conditioner rely on the ducts to deliver warm or cool air to rooms efficiently. If you have uninsulated ducts in unconditioned areas, such as the attic, or if the ducts leak, this compromises the whole system’s energy efficiency. Depending on the state of your home’s ductwork, sealing and insulating could improve duct efficiency by between 20 and 30 percent.

Check accessible ducts for joints that are loose, unsealed or have deteriorating sealing. Also inspect the point where the duct connects to the air handler. All joints and connections should fit tightly and be sealed with mastic or foil-backed tape. Install at least an R-6 layer of batt or duct wrap insulation to ducts that run through the attic, basement or crawl space and garage.

Upgrade Appliances

Any appliance more than 10 years old is likely less efficient than current models and near the end of its life span. If the furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, humidifier or dehumidifier, refrigerator, washer and dryer, or any other appliance is this old, consider upgrading to an Energy Star-qualified model.

Replacing a 10-year-old air conditioner with a new model could reduce cooling bills by 20 to 40 percent. An Energy Star-qualified air conditioner is at least 15 percent more efficient than standard models. You’ll enjoy just as much, if not more, cooling power yet use less energy.

While turning the lights off when you leave the room helps with energy conservation, if your goal is energy efficiency, consider switching to halogen incandescent, CFL or LED light bulbs. These produce the same amount of light as standard incandescent bulbs but consume less energy because they don’t waste as much energy in the form of heat.

For more pro tips on both energy conservation and energy efficiency, contact us at Aqua Plumbing & Air in the Sarasota & Bradenton areas.