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As rates rise, UF/IFAS offers free class to help 'zap' your electric bill

UF/IFAS Extension Polk County is hosting the Zoom webinar at 12 p.m. Tuesday
How to save money on your electric bill this winter
Posted at 6:30 AM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-30 08:18:33-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — Katherine Allen knows the pain that many Floridians are feeling as electric bills continue to climb.

“It’s very painful, and especially when we look at some homeowners — their monthly utility bill is more than their mortgage payment,” she said. “Sometimes, people are choosing to put food on the table rather than have their air conditioning.”

Allen is a Family and Consumer Sciences Agent with the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Tuesday, the IFAS Extension Polk County will host a free “Zap Your Utility Bill” webinar at 12 p.m. on Zoom. You can register at this link. Specialists like Allen will share a long list of cost-saving tips as electric rates soar in places like Lakeland.

Lakeland Electric is raising its fuel rates from $60 to $75 per 1,000-kilowatt hours starting September 1. It’s the utility’s highest fuel rate to date. Without the hike, Lakeland Electric said its Fuel Reserves fund would be fully depleted.

Allen, meanwhile, said cutting your electric bill boils down to two major tactics: changing behaviors and upgrading technology.

When it comes to changing behaviors, she said setting your thermostat a few degrees higher can lower your electric bill noticeably. Allen recommends setting it at 78° to 82° in warmer months. Also, when you’re away from your home for more than four hours, you can set it about 5° degrees higher.

“For you, that might not be something that you want to do, but maybe there’s something else like running a full dishwasher or your clothes washer; maybe for you, that’s an easier thing to do,” she said.

You can also use fans to stay cool and save money when possible.

“When you’re not there, it doesn’t have a cooling effect,” Allen said. “It only moves the air. It doesn’t cool it. So, turn off the fan.”

When it comes to upgrading technology, Allen said look for the Energy Star label when replacing appliances and upgrading to LED light bulbs. Those bulbs, Allen said, reap cost savings in multiple ways.

“They generate less heat as well as being more efficient,” she said. “They say for every dollar for lighting — in LED lighting — that you change and save a dollar in energy costs, you also save an additional 30¢ in air conditioning costs.”

Allen said you should also beware of “vampire” devices, like printers and gaming consoles, which can drain energy even when they’re turned off and in standby mode. You can use a smart plug to better limit that use of electricity.

Finally, Allen said an energy audit can help you identify cost-saving measures. Many utilities offer audits for free.

“Having an energy audit can be an extra set of eyes and ears to help you look for things that you haven’t thought of or, ‘Oh yeah, I was going to get to that.’ Maybe now’s the time to fix or adjust those things,” she said.

Learn more helpful tips from UF/IFAS Extension at this link.