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Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’re probably well aware of the fact that electricity isn’t cheap. Your monthly energy bills can put a dent in your bank account, particularly in the summer when you need your AC to stay comfortable in the Jupiter, FL heat. Unfortunately, you may be contributing to these high energy bills without even realizing it. Here are three of the most common HVAC mistakes that could be unnecessarily inflating your utility bills:

You Aren’t Maintaining Your Filters

Air filters may not seem like a big deal, but they’re vital to the efficient operation of your heating and cooling system. Your air filter prevents dust, dander and other particulates from circulating through your system, keeping the air in your home cleaner and protecting your HVAC system. Unfortunately, those particulates eventually cause your filter to become clogged. They also reduce the airflow and causes your system to work harder to maintain the same air temperature.

This increased workload can cause your system to burn considerably more energy, especially during periods of extreme hot or cold weather. It also causes added stress to the fan motor, potentially causing it to wear out more quickly and leading to costly repairs. Air filters should be checked once a month and changed at least once every three months, though you may need to do this more frequently if you have pets in your home.

You’re Letting Money Leak Away

One of the most important keys to an energy-efficient home is keeping your conditioned air where it belongs. Unfortunately, this is a major problem in many homes. The average home loses about 20 percent of the air that travels through its duct system due to misaligned or disconnected duct sections, poorly sealed joints and other flaws. This represents a serious source of waste that causes your system to work harder than necessary.

The fact that ductwork is often routed behind walls, above ceilings and through attics and basements complicates matters. This can make it difficult to spot leaks and disconnections. In fact, many leaks go completely undetected unless they’re identified as part of a routine inspection.

In addition to leaks, it’s also important to be aware of kinks and other obstructions that may block airflow and reduce the efficiency of your system. A professional test can help you find any leaks and verify that air is flowing properly throughout your system.

You’re Using Outdated Equipment

Even if you practice good energy habits and keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained, all your work could ultimately be undone by outdated equipment. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, it’s likely that you’re missing out on serious savings. Older equipment simply can’t match the efficiency of newer ENERGY STAR-certified systems. Upgrading to more efficient equipment often pays for itself in a short period of time, allowing you to reap the reward of lower energy bills for years to come.

Considering South Florida’s tropical climate, a new air conditioning unit is a particularly useful investment. To see whether upgrading is right for you, check your existing unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. SEER is a measure of how efficiently an air conditioning unit works over the span of a season, and most energy-efficient systems today boast ratings of around 14 to 18. If your existing system has a rating of less than 10, upgrading could really help you slash your high energy bills.

Everyone loves to save money on their heating and cooling costs, and with the simple tips above, you can do exactly that. For more information on how routine maintenance, equipment upgrades and other efficiency measures can help you cut down your utility costs, check out Stephen K Denny, Inc.’s HVAC services or call for a free service estimate.