Author Topic: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!  (Read 8044 times)

cartechguy

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Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« on: December 23, 2014, 08:21:33 PM »
As I'm now retired and now have moved to West Palm Fl I am already thinking about how to keep the house cool when I need to use the AC!! Yes, I think ahead.  The house I bought has been completely renovated except for the old 24 year old Trane Ac unit!!  Being an ASE certified car tech I can fix ac.  I really don't want to spend $$ to replace a WORKING unit!!  But, the lady who owned the house told me that the electric bill can run up to over $300 a MONTH in the April-Sept!! That's more than when I lived in the DC area!!  There are some nice tax credits in FL but,  to Spend 5 grand to save $1200 is silly to me!!

How do you keep a house cool in FL with an OLD AC unit that works!! I know it works because she had it serviced in August!! I still think it does :)


Thanks

marty998

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2014, 08:37:07 PM »
By a portable fan, or a ceiling fan.

Or wave your ipad back and forth in a fan motion.

Serious question (not specifically directed at you cartechguy) - What's the obsession with AC?

monarda

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2014, 08:40:10 PM »

+1 on the ceiling fans.

A low cost option:  add something like this?  http://www.ecofoil.com/Applications/Attic-Insulation

I haven't tried it, but have been curious to see savings numbers from actual users.
(Not sure about this brand over others, I just pasted this one because they have nice illustrative cartoons.)
An article in the Washington Post said cooling cost savings were up to 17%

Also pull shades down on sunny windows during the day. That helps to keep the house from warming up.

A 24 year old AC unit is going to be very inefficient compared to newer ones. I agree, though, while it's working no immediate need to update, but go ahead now and start to shop around now for deals on a replacement unit. Maybe you can do better than 5K. You'll then be ready when that older unit eventually dies.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2014, 09:22:22 PM »
Check out getting (or making) solar screens. Anything you can do to prevent the sun's rays from penetrating your windows.

wtjbatman

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2014, 09:52:24 PM »
I think a few more exclamation points (!!!) might help

Daisy

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2014, 11:09:57 PM »
Wear a bathing suit around the house during the day.

Not so much of a joke really...

I live in South Florida as well. I recently moved to a condo building and asked the other neighbors what they paid for electricity so that I could prepare myself for my new surroundings. I had done pretty well in the old house before, using less electricity than it seemed others do.

Well one lady told me she spent about $300 as well. I almost lost my lunch.  I think she keeps the AC on pretty cold most of the day for her cats though. Also, I've seen her place and although she lives alone I counted about 6 TV sets in the place. Several were on at the same time.

Another lady also said she spent about $300 and the costs were "killing her". She does have a family of 4 living there, and I can hear the TV and the sound system sometimes. They also have a teenage son that plays a lot of video games.

After living through a whole year at the new place, I can happily say I spend about $30-40 (lowest $25 when away for two weeks in that month) in the winter and $50-60 (highest $65 in August) in the summer. I do live alone and haven't used the TV much now that I've cancelled cable. I am off at work most of the day when it is hot out though.

The second lady above asked me what I spent on electricity this year and she almost had a heart attack when she compared it with her $300-400 bills. I don't understand the huge difference.

So as you can see, your usage patterns might make much more of a difference that the age of your AC unit.

LokiMom

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2014, 11:14:16 PM »
I've made getting my electric bill ever lower into something of a hobby.   I live in Texas and air conditioning isn't optional here.  People who have never spent a summer here tend to scoff and think we're all wimpy.  They change their minds after a visit. 

The first July we lived in our house our electric bill was $360.00.  Last July it was $130.00.

The first thing I did was install platinum window film on all our South, East and West windows.  It's a nice little DIY job and the payback is instant. 

Switching to all CFL was next.  People always talk about the electrical savings of the lights themselves, but incandescent lights put off an amazing amount of heat. If they aren't heating your indoor air then your A/C doesn't have to work against them. It's an indirect savings of electricity but I'll take it.

Next I installed a shade sail on our patio. If you install one make sure you use some heavy duty bungee cords to secure it.  They can bounce around a good bit in any wind and will last a lot longer if all the stress isn't taken by the shade itself.

I never use my clothes dryer in the summer.  The clothes actually dry faster on the clothes line and I don't have to pay to heat the dryer and then pay again to cool the house down from the dryer heat.

We installed a tankless water heater.  It's electric because we don't have gas in my area but it still paid for itself within a year.

Finally, when the old A/C started to act up we installed a new high seer Heat Pump. 
You can go here http://www.cooltoday.com/blog/article/SEER-ac-energy-efficiency  and check your savings. There are three different calculators so you can pick the one you like.  If you have a 24 year old unit I'll bet that if you cough up the money for an efficient unit then your savings are going to be a heck of a lot more than $1200 over the life of the unit. 

Do go with a higher seer rating as opposed to the cheapest unit you can get.  You'll get your money back and be comfortable doing it.
I was amazed at the price differences when I was calling around getting installation quotes.  In our area it really paid to make a lot of calls.  We limped through the summer and got our unit installed between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It was a slow time for the company and I got an extra discount. The workers weren't about to die of heat exhaustion in my attic either so they took their time and did a good job.

The next thing on my list is installing a whole house fan.  It's amazing how cool those things can keep a house if you buy the correct size.  If you're going to be anywhere near the water then the temps will cool down at night and a whole house fan will let you take advantage of that. 



 

chasesfish

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2014, 06:12:24 AM »
I lived in Georgia for the last seven years and had to make similar decisions.  The biggest thing I found was to own a lot of the dri-fit style athletic shirts.  They are much cooler than cotton and will hang dry in the house easily verses drying.  I got a 2 for 1 savings.   Programmable thermostats are nice too, I don't sleep well when it's hot but it keeps me from dropping the temperature until the sun goes down

kpd905

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2014, 07:19:31 AM »
If you don't have much attic insulation, that would be a good start and could be fairly cheap.

I recommend listening to this episode of the Radical Personal Finance podcast: http://radicalpersonalfinance.com/how-to-really-save-money-on-utility-bills-with-intelligent-engineering-and-energy-planning-interview-with-steven-harris-ceo-of-knowledge-publications-rpf0085/

Joshua asks Steven this exact question, how to lower his cooling costs in West Palm, Florida.

Mrs. PoP

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2014, 07:48:09 AM »
Like Daisy, we get the biggest bang for the buck by acclimatizing and using the AC sparingly.  We did upgrade from a ?? SEER system that was probably 15-20 years old to a 16 SEER system in 2010.  That did lower the bills somewhat, but we have realized far more savings in just adapting to the tropical surroundings and not refrigerating our house to the point that I needed to wear sweaters inside in the summer.  (Yes, Mr PoP used to really like it that cold... but he adapted.) 

In the summer, we crank the AC on  when we want to go to bed to cool the house, and then we turn it off in the mornings.  Winters find doors and windows open all the time and the ceiling fans (which are in every room - except for the kitchen, something which we think we'll change in 2015) are on whenever we're in the room.  Summers have doors and windows mostly closed or open just a crack for some airflow and to let the cat in/out.  It's a rare day when the AC is turned back on before 8 or 9pm.  Our house pretty much never gets above 85 degrees unless I've got the oven on during the middle of a summer day.  If it gets much above that, we do sometimes crank the AC for a couple of hours, but that only happened a handful of summer afternoons. 

Our FPL bill is <$100/mo on average, after our On-Call discount, which runs an 1100 sqft house for 2 people, plus an inefficient pool pump that runs a minimum of 6 hours per day, every day (that alone runs a little over $1/day).  Also - sign up for On-Call if you are eligible.  It's a no brainer for savings and we've never noticed it being used.    Our house is pretty inefficient, so consider it an example of what you can do with a house that leaks like a sieve if you acclimatize. 

But just because we've acclimatized doesn't mean we're not replacing items with more energy efficient ones as they break.  The new windows we get to replace the old single paned ones with cracked seals will be a huge improvement.  When the water heater was replaced last year it was with one that is a bit more efficient - though still tanked.  When we get a new fridge it'll be energy star, etc...  There are lots of areas for marginal improvement that we'll certainly optimize over time, but that's just savings around the edges - the biggest savings are in embracing the tropical climate.  After all, you moved here for a reason, right?  =)

pbkmaine

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2014, 07:58:09 AM »
We live in a cement block and stucco house north of Orlando, and spend about $150 per month in July and August just for AC keeping the house at 73. That is the maximum acceptable temperature for DH - he notices and adjusts down when I raise it one degree! I may, however, based on this thread, try making it cooler at night and warmer during the day.

Bateaux

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2014, 11:14:36 PM »
You don't need to lower your temperature so much as you need to remove moisture.  It's the moisture that makes you feel icky in the south.  Opening windows and doors let that moist air poor in.  Seal windows and doors best as possible.   Run vents in bathrooms,  washrooms and kitchens when generating heat and moisture. Moving that moist heat to the outside takrs load off your A/C.  You must run the A/C in summer or your house will mildew. It will grow on your clothes, the walls and carpets.   The smell of mold will envelope your home without removing moisture. People who live in drier climates do not understand this.  Even the food in your pantry will ruin from the moisture. Keep your house airtight and small if you want a lower bill.

marty998

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2014, 03:56:11 AM »

Next I installed a shade sail on our patio. If you install one make sure you use some heavy duty bungee cords to secure it.  They can bounce around a good bit in any wind and will last a lot longer if all the stress isn't taken by the shade itself.


I have a neighbour who covers his house in bed sheets. It looks totally ridiculous but it really works!

We keep asking him how far has the ship sailed today LOL. Looks like the sails on a Supermaxi yacht.

Jesus Christ

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2014, 08:31:39 AM »
My 22 year old Trane XE1000 has leaks in the heat exchanger that cannot be fixed. I have to add more refrigerant every year ($275). Shop around when you do replace. Trane units are very expensive. I was getting good prices on Goodman units in North Carolina.

former player

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2014, 09:17:00 AM »
Yes to insulating the house if it gets direct sun.  Also, grow some shade trees on the sunny sides of the house.

Sleep in a hammock - the air circulates all around and keeps you cooler than lying on a mattress.

DeltaBond

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Re: Keeping house cool in Southern Florida? WIthout going broke!!
« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2014, 05:46:12 AM »
I live in TN and our summers are pretty bad, but not nearly as bad as FL.  I have planted things around the house to put some shade there, which really does help.  I would assume your house is a light color, but if not, see about painting it something lighter, same for the roof.

Someone told me that just using the hose and rinsing off the exterior walls can cool things down, but I'm not sure how much water that would take.  Acclimating, sure, but that can be hard with the FL humidity.  I would imagine after a few years the heat may not bother you quite as much.

Also, consider levelized billing after you've been there a year.  Some electric companies allow that after you've lived in a place long enough.

I saw a video for a homemade AC out of a bucket and disposable drinking cups.  It still had a fan running, though, which costs money to run.