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I live in SW Florida so energy use is largely air conditioning. Our electric bill is much larger than I think correct based on comparisons to others, but I can find nothing specifically wrong - I tried checking the meter with an "The Energy Detective", and it seemed about right. Checking individual loads of devices turned up nothing, I think it is just how much the AC systems run.

I am trying to get my head around what really contributes to AC energy costs down here. I have heard that attic insulation is relatively less important than in cold climates, but that air leaks are more important. I do not know if either is true. I can see that I have quite a lot of air leaks (unsealed electrical holes, open wall interiors with no header into the attic poorly stuffed with insulation). Fixing ALL is a big job, so looking to find a way to tell what is most important, and having a real effect; if perhaps it is something else entirely like walls or windows.

So...

The cell camera thermal imagers are getting better and better. I ask this not become a "which one" but rather a general question (or two):

Are they worth the effort for trying to track down the worst offenders for correction? Or am I better off with other types of tests (e.g. a pressure test with smoke to look for leaks)? Are these inexpensive ones good enough to use, or should one punt and rent a professional quality one?

If they are worth the effort (either cell devices, or rentals), are there techniques specifically that may be best for looking for cooling inefficiencies, air leaks, etc.? Or just look on the inside for red, and outside and attic for blue?

  • Where is all your ductwork? Ducts leak too... – ThreePhaseEel Jun 4 '17 at 1:36
  • Aside from your question, have you gone in your attic to see if there are any loose/leaking air ducts? – Edwin Jun 4 '17 at 1:37
  • All ductwork is in the attic, one AC air handler in the attic and one in the garage ceiling (below the attic). House on a slab, block construction outside, tall ceilings (average 12'), hurricane windows, hip roof (very tall, about 12-in-12 at a guess) concrete tile; built 2005. I can see no visible leaking ducts, but there are a lot of ducts, some not very accessible (at least for me). The attic gets VERY hot down here, of course. – Linwood Jun 4 '17 at 1:41
  • Well, absent "I did that and..." type answers, I'm investing in the Seek Pro version, and will find out if I get any real useful, actionable data from it. What troubles me about it (and most any evaluation that says "that is an issue") is one of scale. I know (for example) there are some air leaks in the ceilings and walls; what I hope is some jump out as horribly blue (red/whatever) compared to others, so as to guide what to fix. Or I find a grossly leaking duct that I was unable to see by just inspection. Or... maybe I'll have an expensive new toy. More in week or few. – Linwood Jun 8 '17 at 22:53
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Something to try first: Contact you power company and find out if they will do an audit/evaluation of your home. Our power company called us and asked if we wanted an evaluation ; the contractor that did it even made some simple improvements .

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I do not know if this will help but let me ask a few questions. We have friends in Tampa and this is stuff they did to lessen their electric bills.

  • Do you have vent fans in the attic to remove the excess heat?
  • Are the A/C ducts insulated, both supply and return? Do you have double pane glass, or is it single pane? Double is much better.
  • Do you shade the windows from the daily sun with light drapes or awnings?
  • Do you change the air filter often enough? The A/C unit should be serviced by a competent company; ask your friends and neighbors for the phone number of their service people. You may be able to run a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity, which would allow you to set the temperature higher and still be comfortable.
  • Is your A/C unit new or old, efficient or not?
  • Are the coils, both the inside and outside, clean? When comparing your electric bills to others, is your house the same size, same ceiling height, and built the same as the others you are trying to compare with.

One last idea, if you have ceiling fans that you run, since they move the air in the room, you will be cooling the air in the whole room instead of the first 7-8 feet that you really need to cool to keep you cool. If you have fans try turning them off and see if it helps.

Is your hot water tank electric or gas, and do you use a lot of hot water? These are all questions I would ask myself if I lived in Florida. I do not, I prefer a much cooler climate.

My 2 cents Hope this helps!!!

  • I appreciate the comments, but am not sure that is really addressing the question of whether such tools can help prioritize areas to fix. To answer your questions: No attic fans, insulated ducts (both), hurricane windows, drapes yes, filters and service yes, new-ish AC's high efficiency, and clean coils, and electric hot water and "what is a lot". Each of these could merit a lot of discussion (especially attic venting), but I would really like to focus on whether thermal camera surveys (especially consumer ones) can be effective, or just toys? – Linwood Jun 4 '17 at 15:29
  • First, let me thank isherwood for editing my writing since i don' t know how to do what he did with the item list. To answer your question, I would say "yes" to thermal imaging, since it would show where if any excess heat is coming from, and allow you to correct this problem. Are the consumer ones toys? That would be determined on how accurate the one you were using was since the only way to tell would be to compare it to a professional grade camera. My experience with consumer (cheaper) stuff is that most of them are toys and are not accurate when compared to the professional types. – d.george Jun 5 '17 at 11:09
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Some of the newer gen 3 FLIR cell phone cameras are totally awesome. The pro version is really cool but I am not sure if I would recommend it for a home owner due to the much higher cost. The big difference and why I went pro was the resolution and the visible picture overlay was better (using for tracking electrical hot spots) I need to be able to identify wires in very close proximity to each other. Both have a limited range and closer provides better photos. With that said within ~20' looking at an air duct you will be able to see a leak. Also tracing water leaks in roofing will be close enough with the lower resolution. So to answer your question if funds are not a issue go pro there are more features and better visible photo overlay tools. I believe the gen 3 basic model has better resolution and more sensitivity than the gen 2 pro so if funds are limited you can save hundreds and still have a very good tool with the base model. Make sure to check out the model of your phone and the reviews recommend use with cases, how the adapter fits and if your phone locks up with the model of camera you want these were some of the things I remember seeing poor reviews with some models/ phones.

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