Eric Myers, a Gulf Power Residential Energy representative, reviews findings from an Energy Checkup with Gulf Power customer Lorraine Allen to make sure she’s doing everything she can to save energy and reduce her power bill.

Weather plays the biggest role in the amount of energy customers use and how it impacts their power bill. Customers typically see their highest bills after the hottest months of the summer and coldest of the winter.

With the rounds of Artic blasts tumbling temperatures into the teens and 20s across Northwest Florida this month, Gulf Power has experienced the highest energy demand ever from customers trying to stay warm. Even with the great demand, the cold snap showed the resiliency of Gulf Power’s energy grid.

The severe winter weather experience in January resulted in Gulf Power setting an all-time high system peak demand of 2,817 megawatts on Jan. 18, compared to an expected system peak demand of 2,202 megawatts under more typical weather conditions. This winter’s peak is 28 percent higher than forecasted and surpasses the all-time peak of 2,694 megawatts in January of 2014.

Thursday, January 18 was the second time this month energy demands from customers waking up to warm up their homes during bitter cold caused a peak. The first one was at 8 a.m. on Jan. 2.

“What this means is our customers should prepare for higher than normal power bills,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “With two months of winter left, and another cold snap forecasted for next week, we also want to remind customers of ways to conserve energy and reduce the jumps in bills.”

“One thing customers can do immediately is sign up for Budget Billing,” DelaHaya said. “With Budget Billing, customers pay about the same amount each month with their bill averaged out based on their previous 12 months’ electrical usage. That eliminates the drastic spikes from extreme weather events.”

Another immediate fix; get in the habit of leaving your thermostat at a constant temperature, DelaHaya said.  “Almost half of the energy in your home goes to heating and cooling. In the winter, set it at 68 degrees and leave it. For every degree above 68 you set your thermostat, you’ll pay 10 percent more in heating costs.”

For those who may struggle to the pay their higher bill, the Salvation Army has a program called Project SHARE that provides emergency assistance to our neighbors who need help with energy bills, repairs to heating and air-conditioning equipment, and other energy-related needs, DelaHaya said. The program assists the elderly, the disabled, the sick and others who are experiencing financial hardship. Gulf Power customers can make donations to Project Share by adding a donation to their electricity bill. The Gulf Power Foundation is donating $25,000 to help The Salvation Army’s Project Share, Catholic Charities and Council on Aging/Area on Aging. Other community agencies also offer help with utility payments.

Here a full list of where to get help paying your power bill  

Pensacola

  • United Ministries (only provides assistance to families w/children) 257 E Lee St., Pensacola, 850-433-2333
  • Catholic Social Services, 222 E Government St., Pensacola, 850-436-6425
  • Community Action Program (Tuesdays 8:15-9:15 am), 1308 W Garden St., Pensacola, 850-607-2088
  • First Call For Help, 1800 N Palafox St, Pensacola, 850-595-5905
  • Salvation Army, 1501 North Q St., Pensacola, 850-432-1501
  • First Baptist Church, 850-438-8907
  • Olive Baptist Church. 850-473-4466

Milton

  • Interfaith Ministries — Santa Rosa County residents, Gulf Breeze, Navarre, Milton, 850-934-8385
  • We Care Ministries (United Methodist Church — Santa Rosa County residents, Navarre) 850-939-1005
  • Family Resource Center, 850-626-2054
  • Salvation Army, Santa Rosa County, 850-623-4099
  • Tri County Community Council, 6607 Elva St., 850-981-0036

DeFuniak Springs

  • Caring & Sharing, 850-892-7656
  • Tri County Council Assistance, 850-892-3615

Fort Walton

  • Striving for Perfection Ministries, 312 Pelham Rd. Open Tues – Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 850-862-3899
  • United Way, 112 Tupelo Ave., 850-243-0315
  • Salvation Army, 425 Mary Esther-cutoff, 850-243-4531
  • Catholic Social Services, 11 1st St. 850-244-2825

Crestview

  • Sharing & Caring, 850-682-1134
  • Salvation Army, 850-243-4531
  • Tri-County, 850-306-1134

Niceville

  • Okaloosa County Council on Aging 850-833-9165
  • Salvation Army 850-243-4531
  • Catholic Social Services 850-244-2825
  • Sharing & Caring 850-678-8459

Panama City 

  • Catholic Charities, 850-763-0475
  • Council On Aging, 850-769-3468
  • United Way, 850-785-7521 or 215-6611
  • Family Services, 850-785-1721
  • Salvation Army, 850-769-5259
  • Tri County, 942 Jenks Ave., 850-215-0173
  • Beach Care Services — Panama City Beach Residents only 850-235-3002

Chipley 

  • Love in Action, 850-638-2706
  • Jackson County Senior Citizen, 850-263-4650
  • Salvation Army, 850-638-7102

What else can customers do to manage their energy bills?  

Energy Checkup

One of the easiest ways you can identify measures to conserve energy is through a free home Energy Checkup. Customers can do their own online checkup from anywhere at any time on a laptop or tablet or on a mobile device. The checkup provides a report that’s personalized for you, based on your home’s actual energy use and can be accessed whenever you want to look for ways to save money and energy.

Manage your energy use to control savings

Energy Select is a nationally recognized program that puts the power of savings in your hands. By combining a unique variable price, an online programming and smart thermostat, Energy Select allows customers to take control of saving money and energy. This energy-saving program features a lower energy price 87 percent of the time, the convenience to control your comfort and savings, and FREE installation. You can sign up for alerts that will allow you to turn off your heating or cooling system during high rate times.

Programmable thermostat

With a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the temperature to save energy and money. You can create a schedule that follows your family’s routine, and keep comfortable while you’re there, but reduces energy usage when you’re not home. And newer programmable thermostats can be adjusted by mobile app while you are on the go.

Find and Seal Leaks

Seal up your home so cold air can’t sneak in through doors, walls or a poorly insulated attic. Make sure there are no tiny holes in your ducts that could cause your heater to work harder. Install weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows if needed and increase attic insulation, which can save you up to 30 percent on cooling and heating costs.

Maintain your heating systems

A well-maintained heating system runs more efficiently. Change or clean your air filter monthly since dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency

Lower your lighting costs

One of the best ways to save energy: turn off lights that aren’t in use. Use fluorescent lighting or LEDs. They last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. And, they can produce four times more light than standard incandescent bulbs for the same amount of energy.

There are many other things you can do to make you and your home more comfortable in the winter such as use an electric blanket at night — it’s more economical than heating the entire house all night long. Check out more energy-savings tips here.