It may seem hard to believe that it is still spring with the summer-like temperatures that Northwest Florida has been experiencing in recent weeks.

Like the extreme frigid temperatures we had this winter, soaring summer temperatures can also cause seasonal spikes in customer’s energy bills. But customers can take control of their bill by making simple, energy-efficient changes in their homes.

“Now that the temperatures are getting warmer, customers will be using more energy,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “Several days of unusually hot weather can lead to increased energy bills, but an extended period of high temperatures can cause some customers’ energy bills to spike. Now is the perfect time of year to look for ways to conserve energy and save money through low-cost or no-cost measures ahead of the hotter peak summer season.”

One of the easiest ways customers can take steps now to save energy is through a free home Energy Checkup. Customers can go online to complete the checkup that analyzes their energy usage and helps them look for ways to save money and energy. Whether at home on a laptop or tablet, or on a mobile device, customers have the added convenience of conducting the checkup wherever they are, whenever they want.

The online tool is easy to use whether you know a lot about the construction of your home or just the basics. Once online, start the checkup and answer 10 questions about your home from size to if you have a pool or hot tub. Almost every question has an advanced option for specific detail or click on the icons that look like your homes features.

Simply answer all 10 questions and hit “show analysis.” You’ll receive a list of tips to save you money on your energy consumption along with a custom break down of how you use energy.

This comprehensive report usually shows simple tips to help save money on monthly energy bills and improve the home’s energy efficiency, such as changing air filters monthly, sealing air leaks around windows and doors, and installing a programmable thermostat to prevent unnecessary energy use.

Customers can also manage their energy savings by checking out Gulf Power’s Energy Select program, a nationally recognized program that puts the power of savings in your hands. This energy-saving management program gives customers the opportunity to pay a lower price for energy 87 percent of the time.

Along with the energy checkup, Gulf Power recommends the following energy-saving tips for summer:

Click to read the Top 10 Energy Efficiency Tips

Adjust your thermostats

Air conditioning: If you can, set your thermostat to 78 degrees. For every degree below 78 degrees, you’ll use 5-10 percent more energy to cool your home.  Almost half of the energy in your home goes to cooling. With programmable thermostats, you can adjust the temperature to the exact point of your own personal comfort. You don’t have to keep your air conditioning on lower settings while you’re away from home. You can create a schedule that follows your household’s routine and keep the temperature cool while you’re home but eases up on the energy usage when you’re not there. And newer programmable thermostats can be adjusted by mobile app while you are on the go.

Water Heater: Keep your water heater set to 120 degrees instead of 140 and save on your annual energy costs. If you head out of town for an extended vacation, turn it off entirely. There’s no need to heat unused water. Plus, once turned back on, most models will reheat the water to the set temperature in about an hour. If you are upgrading your water heater, consider a heat pump water heater, solar water heater or super-insulated conventional electric water heater.

Find and Seal Leaks

Seal up your home so hot air can’t sneak in through doors, walls or a poorly insulated attic. Make sure there are no tiny holes in your air ducts that could cause your air conditioner to work harder. Install weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows, if needed, and increase attic insulation. Choose R-19 for walls and floors, and R-38 for the attic, which can save you up to 30 percent on cooling and heating costs.

Don’t forget to check your refrigerator or freezer door seals occasionally to ensure a proper, leak-free seal. If you are in the market for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label.

Maintain your cooling systems

A well-maintained cooling system runs more efficiently. A complete tune-up of the home cooling system is a worthwhile investment and can reduce your energy bill every month. Some companies offer regular service contracts, which are convenient if you tend to forget scheduled maintenance. And remember to change or clean your air filter monthly since dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.

Also, whether you are building a new house or replacing an older system, always use an electric heat pump, the most efficient heating and cooling system available.

Become a fan of the fan. 

Ceiling fans offer an inexpensive alternative to setting the thermostat to a lower temperature. That’s because fans make people feel several degrees cooler without lowering the temperature in the room – all while using a fraction of the energy consumed by the A/C. Set the fan to turn counter-clockwise in the summer and be sure to turn it off when leaving the room.

Lower your lighting costs

It’s staying lighter longer during the summer months and 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.

Budget Billing

If 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 a free service that averages the highs and lows of your electric bills by giving you an average price to pay each month when you meet certain eligibility requirements.

It’s easy to plan for your monthly energy bill when you don’t have to worry about “surprise” summer energy bills.

Visit GulfPower.comfor more energy-savings tips.