When you stand in the shade, you feel cooler than when you stand in the sun. This isn’t because the air temperature is different. The radiation from the UV rays and direct sunlight makes you feel around 6 to 25 degrees warmer than you are. Likewise, sunlight in a room heats up hard surfaces like a hardwood or tile floor, your furniture, and your walls. It’s the solar radiation that warms things up.
When it’s the hottest days of summer with the sun high in the sky, the power of the sun coming in through the windows can make your room feel a lot warmer. You’re tempted to lower your thermostat to compensate, but that will drive up your energy bills. Is there a better option?
Plant Trees to Create Shade
Planting trees is a great way to create shade that keeps your rooms from heating up. Shade trees can slash your power bills by more than you might imagine. Choose the windows with the most sun exposure to help keep solar energy from impeding your air conditioner’s efficiency. You want shade trees to block some of the sun’s light when the sun is highest in the sky, usually from late morning to late afternoon.
You want to plant the shade trees on the east, west, and northwest sides of the house. You can plant them all the way around, but this can block the sun from warming your house in the winter. If that bothers you, stick to the east, west, and northwest.
How much will this really help with energy bills? According to the Department of Energy, air conditioning bills in homes with shade trees can be up to 25% less. Suppose your monthly electricity bill when the air conditioner is running is $200. You could lower that bill by $50. That’s a huge savings!
It takes time for a tree to grow. Most trees need to be 6 to 8 feet tall before they start creating enough shade to lower your air conditioning energy costs. If you’re considering adding shade trees, you’ll need them at that height to gain immediate benefits.
You also want to carefully consider the types of trees. Not every tree will provide as much shade as you hope. A palm tree’s long trunk and the burst of fronds at the top won’t create as much shade as a deciduous tree. Deciduous trees shed leaves in the fall as they go dormant in the winter. They’re the best choice as they spread out as they grow up.
What are some of the best deciduous trees for Florida’s heat and humidity? Here are a few options.
These sturdy oak trees are deep-rooted and tend to withstand hurricane-force winds. The benefits of these trees are that they don’t require much care. Plant them and they’ll grow and start to form large canopies for shade.
Florida elms can grow up to 80 feet tall and provide plenty of shade to your home thanks to the wide top. In the fall, the leaves will turn vibrant shades of orange and yellow.
The magnolia tree has fragrant, showy blooms that appear each spring. They grow upwards of 100 feet, so they can create plenty of shade for you. In the spring if it’s cool enough, they’ll scent your home, which makes them so popular with Floridians.
A maho tree is an evergreen that grows large hibiscus-like yellow flowers. The reason we recommend it is that it doesn’t take up as much space as other shade trees. If you don’t have a large yard, this mid-size shade tree is perfect.
Before planting any shade trees, be sure you know where your septic or sewer lines are. If you have a leach field and septic tank, you do not want to plant trees where the roots will cause damage to the pipes and tank.
Other Steps to Take to Lower Your AC Bills
What else can you do to lower your electricity bills? The good news is that there are several things to do that help reduce your energy consumption and lengthen the life of your AC unit.
Reduce Solar Heat Gain
Install blinds that block UV lighting. If the sun is coming into your windows, it’s going to heat your room. Your air conditioning unit has to work more to bring down the temperature to your preferred level. Save money by putting in light-blocking blinds or curtains.
The Department of Energy estimates that cellular shades can lower solar heat gain by as much as 60%. Lighter-colored curtains with a white backing reduce heat gain by as much as 33%. If you don’t want to put in curtains or blinds, Low-e or UV-blocking window films that are applied to the glass can also help with solar heat gain.
Set Your Thermostat to 78 Degrees Fahrenheit
As tempting as it is to set your thermostat at 68 F, you’ll end up running your system more and increase your electricity bill. The recommended setting for the summer is 78 F. Try to stay to that.
If you find yourself getting too warm at that temperature, there are a few things to try. Run floor fans or ceiling fans to circulate the air faster and create cool breezes in areas farther away from the vents.
Do you have a pool? When you swim, wear a t-shirt in the water. Leave it on when you get out. The damp shirt will keep you feeling cooler for a lot longer when you’re back inside.
Have Your Ducts Inspected
Hire a professional AC technician to inspect your ducts during a cleaning. Ideally, you want to have your system’s air ducts cleaned out every other year. If someone in the household has allergies, yearly cleanings are optimal.
If problems are found, have them restored or sealed to prevent cool or warm air from leaking out into your attic or walls. Dirty or faulty ducts cause your AC system to work harder, which increases energy costs.
Duct restoration restores ducts, removes clogs, and may mean replacing damaged sections. If work is needed on the outside of the duct, duct sealing is a perfect choice. Holes, cracks, and damage are fixed, improving efficiency.
Regularly Maintain Your Air Conditioner
Each year, schedule an air conditioning service appointment to have your system cleaned and evaluated. A full AC system evaluation troubleshoots potential or current issues to prevent unexpected breakdowns in the middle of the hottest day of the summer.
A cleaning and evaluation should look at and clean all components. Start with the air filter. The technician will replace the air filter so that you’re starting with a fresh filter. The condenser and evaporator coil are next.
The technician will clean the condensate drain and check the unit’s casing and thermostat. Ask if a duct inspection and cleaning are part of this appointment. If not, make sure it’s added if you haven’t had your ducts cleaned in years. Not only can the dust, dander, and pet hair end up in the ducts, but it can also increase the risk of mildew and mold within the ducts.
Is it time to have your AC cleaned and maintained? Do you think it might be time for a new system? All Year Cooling offers coupons that help you save a lot of money. Reach us by phone, live chat, or schedule a cleaning and inspection online.