Zap Your Energy Bills

Reducing your monthly utility payment can make a big impact on your bottom line.
If you grew up with a parent who insisted on turning off the lights in every empty room, you’ve had a taste of energy conservation. But simply flipping a switch here and there isn’t going to have much of an effect on your utility bill.

So what are the biggest energy-consuming culprits, and what can you do to lower your bills and create a more energy-efficient home? Read on.

And the Winner Is…
The number-one energy user in a typical home is the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. Every degree above 68 for heating or below 78 for air conditioning will ratchet up your energy costs an additional 7 to 10 percent. You can take measures to keep your HVAC from kicking on so frequently by improving your home’s insulation. Add extra insulation under the roof, and you can also add it behind the sheetrock in your walls without demolition—a qualified insulation contractor can drill small holes into the exterior walls and pump spray foam insulation inside. It typically costs about $1.50 a square foot.

A Close Second
Number two on the list? The pool pump. In the summer months, warmer temperatures encourage
algae growth, so the pump needs to run more frequently; eight hours is the norm. But when the weather cools, you may be able to get the run time down to as little as four hours.
When cutting back on operating hours for the pool pump, do so gradually—30 minutes at a time. If the water starts looking murky, add a half hour to the daily run time until the water clears.

Three’s the Charm
The third biggest power-sucker is the water heater, which can account for as much as 30 percent of an average home’s energy bill. The standard temperature set by most manufacturers is 140 degrees; reduce that to 120 degrees and save up to 10 percent on your monthly bill.
For additional savings, insulate the water heater and the pipes leading to it, and install low-flow fixtures to reduce hot water usage. And when it’s time to replace the heater, consider a tankless on-demand water heater, which can save more than 20 percent on your energy bill. Better yet, opt for a solar water heater, which can reduce energy costs by 90 percent.

A Chilling Reality
Rounding out your home’s top four energy users is the refrigerator, but there are simple changes you can make to save a few dollars. Keep the refrigerated side of your appliance set between 35 and 42 degrees and the freezer at 5 degrees; any cooler and you’re wasting money. If you have a second fridge, you may want to see if you can live without it—pulling the plug can save around $17 a month.

Cashing In
Many energy-saving improvements can be offset with rebates and tax incentives from your power company or the government—or both, in some cases. If you’re considering any improvements such as adding insulation; replacing your water heater, windows or roof; or improving your HVAC unit’s efficiency, contact your energy supplier to inquire about incentive programs.   

Show & Tell
Want to learn more about products and practices that can help trim energy costs? Attend the Orlando Home & Garden Show, January 24-26, and the Central Florida Home & Garden Show, April 4-6, at the Orange County Convention Center. Both shows feature exhibits, presentations, celebrity appearances and more. Ticket prices range from $9-$13, not including parking. For more information, visit or


Power Down
Thirty cents an hour may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time—more than $70 a month just to run a pool pump. And I discovered after having an energy audit by Duke Energy that just by reducing the pump’s running time during the cooler months from eight hours a day to four, the monthly cost drops to around $36.

If you’re a Duke Energy customer, you can book an energy audit at no charge by calling 877-574-0340. (There’s a request form and a different toll-free number to call posted on their website,, but Florida residents must call the number noted in this article to make an appointment.)

If you’re an Orlando Utilities Commission customer, you can conduct an online home energy audit by logging on to, or call 407-423-9018 to set an appointment for a free at-home energy audit. 

During an energy audit, you’ll receive information and tips on how to reduce energy consumption, as well as home-improvement suggestions designed to lower your power bills.


Categories: Advice