Eric Myers, a Residential Energy Consultant from Gulf Power’s Panama City office, discusses the results of an Energy Checkup with Lorraine Allen, a Gulf Power customer who requested the free service.

Pensacola, ­­Fla. — October is the season for football, sweaters, and shopping for pumpkins and Halloween costumes. It also means cooler temperatures with the change of the season, and it’s the perfect time to assess of how much energy you are using as you prepare for winter.

Before winter hits with expected below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation as predicted by the Farmers’ Almanac, Gulf Power customers can get a FREE Energy Checkup for their home to help stay comfortable and keep energy bills in check.

“Even the smallest air leak in your home can cause your heating system to run more than it should — wasting energy,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson.  “We want to help our customers take control over their energy use, which is why we offer a FREE online or in-home Energy Checkup. It’s an easy way to find the energy wasters in the home and show customers how to make their home more energy efficient.”

Lorraine Allen, a Gulf Power customer who moved from San Angelo, Texas to Panama City, requested a Gulf Power Energy Checkup after noticing her monthly bills seemed a little higher than expected.

“I knew moving here it was going to be really hot in the summer months, and the winters mild,” said Allen during her recent Energy Checkup. “I just wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to save energy and not be wasteful by heating or cooling the outside.”

Eric Myers, a Residential Energy Consultant from Gulf Power’s Panama City office, visited Allen’s 1,900 square-foot home recently to help her identify ways she could start saving energy and money with no-cost or low-cost solutions.

“This is a great service we provide free to our customers,” said Myers. “Our team can visually inspect windows and doors, caulking, weather stripping, insulation levels, water heaters, and heating and cooling systems. It takes about an hour and we can review the results and recommend steps the homeowner can take to make their home more energy efficient.”

During the walkthrough of the home, Myers noted a few things the homeowner could do to help with energy savings. Adding more insulation in the attic, weather stripping around the attic access door, and adding spray foam insulation around wiring leading into the house, he said.

“These are easy changes to make and tackling less expensive changes first can add up to big savings,” said Myers. “Investing in making your home more energy efficient now before winter is much better than later when you get that first high utility bill.”

Following the checkup, Allen received a comprehensive report with simple tips to help her save money on her monthly energy bill and improve her home’s energy efficiency, such as changing her air filter monthly, sealing air leaks around windows and doors and installing a programmable thermostat to prevent unnecessary energy use.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the findings,” said Allen. “All the suggestions were easy and reasonable. And what I really appreciated was his truthfulness and honesty during the energy checkup. I would suggest everybody have this done at their home.”

Along with the FREE Energy Checkup, Gulf Power recommends the following energy-saving tips for winter:

Adjust your thermostat

  • As much as half of the electricity in your home goes to heating and cooling. Set the thermostat and then forget it. If you change the temperature often during the day, you are more likely to waste energy.
  • In the winter, try setting the thermostat at 68° or below. Every degree above 68° will cost you 10 percent more on your heating bill.
  • Change or clean your air conditioner filter monthly. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.
  • Use your ceiling fan for more comfort, but only when you’re in the room. Remember to reverse the direction of your ceiling fan in winter to push warmer ceiling air downward for added comfort.

Stay warm in the winter — There are many things you can do to make you and your home more comfortable in the winter. Consider these tips for staying warm:

  • Use an electric blanket at night. An electric blanket is more economical than heating the entire house all night long.
  • Keep cold wind outside by closing garage doors.
  • Close all louvers and vents in the attic or foundation walls during the winter — but be sure to open them when the weather turns warm.
  • If you use portable electric heaters, use them only in small areas. Buy models that are thermostatically controlled.
  • Leave draperies open on sunny days so your house will absorb the sun’s heat. Close them on the shaded side of the house and at night. 

Insulate

  • Seal up your cooling system and maximize efficiency so hot air can’t sneak into your home through doors, walls or a poorly insulated attic. Make sure there are no tiny holes in your ducts that could cause your air conditioner to work harder.
  • Increase attic insulation, which can save you up to 30 percent on cooling and heating costs.
  • Insulation is measured in R-value, which is a measure of resistance to heat flow. So, the higher the R-value, the better the insulation value.
  • Experts recommend you use an R-value of R-38 in ceiling areas.
  • Check your windows and doors for air leaks. Install weather stripping or caulking if needed.
  • Close unused air vents. If you have central AC you can close air vents in rooms you’re not using so you’re not paying to cool them.

Lighting

  • One of the best ways to save energy is to turn off lights that aren’t in use.
  • Use fluorescent lighting or LEDs when possible. They last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. And, they can produce four times more light than standard incandescent bulbs for the same amount of energy.
  • Use one large bulb instead of several small ones in areas where bright light is needed.
  • Use smaller lamps in work areas, like sewing areas and computer desks, so you don’t light the entire room.
  • Lighter-colored walls, drapes, blinds and upholstery reflect light. Dark colors absorb heat and require more artificial light.

Get more power at your fingertips with MyGulfPower.com

Keep track of your energy consumption and view the amount of electricity bought on a daily basis, or set up customized alerts through MyGulfPower.com. The features of MyGulfPower.com allow customers to cut back or adjust energy needs to better control their monthly bill. Customers must have an online account or can create an account under “My Account.” Customers will have the ability to:

  • View the amount of energy used on a monthly or daily basis on an easy-to-read bar graph
  • Create customized alerts and notifications about daily or month-to-date energy use
  • Know how much you are being billed each day and avoid the “end-of-the month surprise”
  • View an estimated projection of your bill during the month
  • View how weather impacts your bill
  • Customers can receive energy efficiency tips

Energy Select

Energy Select is an advanced energy management and pricing program offered by Gulf Power that can help you save money and energy. With Energy Select you’re in control when you save energy and money with this innovative program.

You get:

  • A thermostat you program for comfort and savings
  • Online Programming – You can now program your Energy Select thermostat from any computer with internet access.
  • A special rate that features four different prices based upon the time of day, day of week and season. And, because the price you pay is lower than the normal rate 87 percent of the time, you can choose to buy electricity during lower-priced periods, which saves you money and energy.
  • FREE installation

Budget Billing

If heating and cooling bills are busting your budget, Budget Billing might be for you. Budget Billing allows customers to budget their personal finances more effectively. And better yet, customers know their approximate energy bill before it is received. With Budget Billing, you can plan on paying nearly the same amount for your energy service every month with an annual settle-up review.

Budget Billing is based on the average utility bill for the previous year and is recalculated monthly. If your utility charges should increase during the current year, the budget amount would be increased.

Customers can call 877-655-4001 to schedule their in-home audit or go online for their personalized report.