University of Florida

Save Money by Saving Energy

Energy Efficiency in the Home

Home energy consumption and the resulting costs can be lowered by modifying energy use behavior, improving existing equipment and/or upgrading to newer equipment. Upgrades or replacements will initially cost money, but steps can be taken to lower your bill and reduce costly power usage without spending money. In addition, there are numerous economic incentives offered by utility companies and manufacturers to help bridge the gap between energy efficiency and project affordability. Depending on your resources, you stand to benefit by adopting any combination of these measures.

Before You Spend

Monitor and evaluate your home's energy usage by examining your power bill and discovering how and where you are using the most energy. Streamlining usage patterns can lower your monthly payments. You can easily adopt habits such as:

  • Turning off lights and fans when you leave a room.
  • Curbing idle time while the refrigerator door is open.
  • Taking quick showers.
  • Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use.
  • Using the dishwasher only when it is full.
  • Keeping your thermostat around 78° in summer and 68° in winter.
  • Using shades or blinds to block the suns rays.
  • Hanging clothes to dry rather than using the dryer.
  • Replace filters in your heater or air conditioner units once a month.
  • Keeping refrigerator coils clean.

Don't Forget These Tips:

  • Ask your utility company for an energy audit. In many cases, these are free and include inspections of ductwork, door, window, attic and wall insulation, as well as water heater and air conditioning unit.
  • Ask your utility company for rebates and/or incentives for energy efficient upgrades.
  • If purchasing an existing home, realize that some energy improvements such as upgrading the central air conditioner and water heater can be included in an “energy improvement” mortgage.
  • If purchasing a new energy efficient home, ask your mortgage lender about an energy efficient mortgage.

Potential Savings

The Home Energy Saver Calculator is an internet-based program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the best indicator of potential savings short of having a home energy audit. You can estimate potential savings by customizing your house description on their website. For a typical home, the profitability of energy upgrades is estimated at around $600 per year based on the application of these 10 energy efficient measures:

  • Fluorescent lamps & fixtures.
  • Duct sealing.
  • Clothes washer.*
  • Programmable thermostat.*
  • Water heater tank wrap.
  • Refrigerator.*
  • Heat pump.*
  • Air sealing.
  • Attic & Wall Insulation.

*ENERGY STAR Appliances. ENERGY STAR meets strict guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.

According to the ENERGY STAR website FAQ, the typical household spends $2,000 a year on energy bills. With ENERGY STAR, you can save more than 30% or more than $700 per year, with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions, without sacrificing features, style or comfort.

There are always variables, and comparing one person’s home to another is like comparing apples to oranges. Factors including age and use of appliances, ductwork and sealing, windows, human occupancy behavior, etc. will affect energy efficiency. For example, big-ticket items, such as a new air conditioning unit will be most cost-effective and better matched to your needs after you’ve taken steps to reduce your home’s energy demand as much as possible.

When You Spend

A professional opinion (i.e. from your utility provider) will help assess the potential to maximize savings by lowering your monthly bill and reducing your energy consumption. If upgrades or replacements are recommended or necessary, then you can search the ENERGY STAR website for offers and rebates from ENERGY STAR partners as well as DSIRE—the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (which lists state, local, utility, and federal incentives). 

Applying efficient upgrades will prove economically beneficial in the long run if you have a proper plan and investment capital. Don’t forget to always use energy wisely, i.e. sparingly. Even ultra-efficient equipment can be used wastefully.

Incentives to Spend

Florida utility companies usually have some form of economic energy incentive for customers to lower overall energy consumption. Common incentives are:

  • Financial discounts on a particular (certified) product or service.
  • Rebates to offset the cost of upgrading equipment.
  • Loans to help the customer buy new and efficient equipment.
  • Giveaways to encourage the customer to use a certain product.
  • Tax credit or deduction to encourage customer investments in a product or service.
  • Manufacturer’s rebate to encourage a consumer to use a certain product or service.

Utility companies and energy equipment manufacturers offer these incentives to off-set the initial cost to the consumer. These companies (as well as states and the federal government) have their own motives for increasing energy efficiency. These demand-side motivations of utility providers and equipment manufacturers result from power plant inefficiencies, increased power demand, and environmental and health issues.

Typical Incentives

  • Structural: Attic insulation, Windows, Reflective Roof, Weatherization. Look for: Utility Rebate Programs, Federal Tax Credit, Manufacturer Rebates.
  • Mechanical: Duct Sealing, HVAC Service, HVAC Replacement. Look for: Utility Rebate Programs, Federal Tax Credit, Manufacturer Rebates.
  • Appliances: Water Heater, Refrigerator, Washer, Dryer. Look for: Federal Tax Credit, Loan Programs, Manufacturer Rebates.
  • Lighting: Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). Look for: Utility and Manufacturer Giveaways.
  • Alternative energy: Solar Water Heating, Solar Photovoltaic Panels. Look for: Federal Tax Credit, State Rebate Program, Utility Rebates, Loan Programs.

For the most current information regarding federal, state, and utility provider energy efficiency incentives visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Cost Efficient Spending

  • Plant trees and shrubs that shade your home to provide natural insulation.
  • Switch from incandescent light bulbs to ENERGY STAR compact fluorescents (CFLs). Compact fluorescents are a few dollars more per bulb to purchase, but greatly outlast incandescent bulbs (10 times longer) and require much less energy for the same amount of light. Overall, they are less expensive than regular incandescent bulbs because of their longevity, lower energy usage, and lower heat production. To find out more about how to purchase and handle the proper ENERGY STAR CFLs for your home, visit:

Spending Wisely

Before making major changes, assess your current situation and take all measures possible to reduce your energy usage. These changes will reflect on your monthly power bill and may not cost much out of pocket. If you decide that you would benefit from upgrades and/or new appliances, make sure you maximize your savings by speaking with your utility provider or consult a professionally trained energy efficiency expert to execute the most efficient plan.

The largest percentage of home energy consumption in Florida is heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC), with cooling as the largest single factor. Upgrading these systems may significantly reduce your monthly bills, but actual savings will depend on structural factors, home maintenance, and occupant behavior. Remember to always ask your utility provider for an energy audit as well as incentive options when deciding on large purchases.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Energy Efficient Homes: Easy Steps to Improve Your Home's Energy Efficiency (FCS3267) By: Nicholas W. Taylor, M. Jennison Kipp, and Kathleen C. Ruppert. Published by: Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (Archived).

Energy Efficient Homes: Fluorescent Lighting (FCS3270) By: Hyun-Jeong Lee, Kathleen C. Ruppert, and Wendell A. Porter. Published by: Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (June/2008).