Most Floridians enjoy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a day off to relax with family and friends. In the service-minded spirit of the holiday’s namesake, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is urging residents to Make Your Day Off a Day On by joining in a “National Day of Utility Service.”
“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love,” Dr. King once said. The generous character of the famed civil rights leader is reflected in the first annual Anybody Can Serve campaign, sponsored by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).
“A ‘National Day of Utility Service,’ the Anybody Can Serve campaign theme, will help residents learn about energy awareness and conservation measures,” said PSC Chairman Matthew M. Carter II. “Sharing money-saving energy conservation tips and helping neighbors sign up for energy bill assistance programs embraces the intended spirit of the holiday.”
Anybody Can Serve is also a call for residents to make energy efficiency a year-round lifestyle. Besides protecting the environment, energy efficiency also protects customers’ wallets by helping them save money on utility bills. Energy conservation brochures are available on the PSC Web site at: Publications/ConsumerBrochures.
Start your journey toward energy efficiency with the following tips:
Insulate your home. Check the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. You can reduce the load on your heating and cooling equipment by as much as 30 percent by investing in insulation.
Draft-proof windows, doors and other air leaks. Move a lit candle around the frames and sashes of your windows. If the flame flickers, you may need caulking and/or weather stripping.
Open your blinds or shades. During winter months, open blinds to let the sun warm your home. Close blinds or shades for large windows situated in the east or west sides of your home during the summer months.
Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket. Heating water accounts for about 20 percent of all home energy usage.
Keep your indoor thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter. Wearing a heavy, long-sleeved sweater will make it feel about 3.7 degrees warmer.
Unplug electronics. Unplug phone chargers and electronic devices and turn off your computer and monitor when not in use. Plugged-in electronics continue to use electricity.
Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, appliances account for about 20 percent of your household's energy consumption with refrigerators, clothes washers, and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list.
Learn your family's lighting needs. Look for ways to reduce lighting use and use lighting controls like occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timers. Replace standard incandescent light bulbs and fixtures with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.
Conduct a home energy audit. A home energy audit will suggest the most effective measures for cutting energy costs. Contact your utility company to find out about a free home energy audit.
The Anybody Can Serve campaign is also highlighting assistance programs available to residents needing help with their energy bills.
The LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is a federal, statewide program that helps pay energy bills for households with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. To find out more about qualifications, contact your county's local LIHEAP agency, which can be found on the Department of Community Affairs Web site at http://www.floridacommunitydevelopment.org/liheap/index.cfm or by calling the state's information line at 2-1-1.
The following are some of the assistance programs available from the five investor-owned utilities (IOUs) regulated by the PSC:
Florida Power and Light’s program is called CARE TO SHARE. The program provides emergency assistance funds to customers in a crisis situation and unable to pay their electric bill. The funds are disbursed through local non-profit organizations.
Progress Energy Florida provides assistance through the ENERGY NEIGHBOR FUND. The monies collected are distributed to needy customers through local aid agencies.
Tampa Electric Company offers a 62+ PLAN. TECO’s program helps customers who are 62 years-of-age or older work out payment options.
Gulf Power provides emergency assistance to customers who need help with energy bills, repairs to heating and air-conditioning equipment, and other energy-related needs. The programs assist the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and others experiencing financial hardship.
Florida Public Utilities Company will, on a case-by-case basis, offer extended payment options. The company also refers customers to appropriate support agencies.
At least 18 municipal and cooperative systems throughout the state also have emergency assistance programs. Utility customers experiencing financial hardship can also contact their electric company and local charities to inquire about financial assistance. Customers can call the PSC’s consumer assistance line at 1-800-342-3552 for information about programs in their area or for information on how to work out a utility payment plan.
Anybody Can Serve by practicing energy efficiency. We have a choice. Everyone plays a role in reshaping our energy future, and we can make a positive impact by practicing an energy efficient lifestyle. We have the power to change our energy future. Make Your Day Off a Day On and choose to become energy efficient on Monday, January 19. For more information on the Anybody Can Serve campaign, visit www.anybodycanserve.org.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.