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County Embarks on New Energy-Saving Program

Missed the rebates, gift-bags and other incentives? There’s still a chance to save hundreds on your power bill.

Sarasota County embarked Monday on the final phase of its Federal energy grant program. It’s called “Energy Upgrade,” and is an education outreach to citizens on how they can cut power bills with simple methods.

The program was kicked off at the monthly Sustainable Sarasota Community Partnership meeting.

The average consumer in Sarasota pays about $1,500 per year in power bills. By making simple alterations in habits, a user can reduce that by $400 or more. “Florida’s per-capita energy use is among the highest in the nation,” said Marianne King, a vice president of Staples Marketing. “The reason is air conditioning in the summer, and electric heat in the winter.” King will guide the effort.

The county’s new program provides help at a new website, www.energyupgradetoday.com “What can I do for no money?” asked King. “Or for a moderate investment? The website has a five-step program to look at a home as a system.” It includes checklists for homeowners. One of them – the “no cost” checklist –demands only changes in habits to net a $430 annual difference. 

The effort is funded by the same federal grant that produced the “Get Energy Smart Program” that allowed all Sarasota County citizens to receive rebates for home energy audits and energy-saving improvements like better doors, windows, duct replacement and new air conditioners. In less than two years, the money is gone. It provided not only energy-saving improvements but also stimulated local business and employment.

The new program will go on the road by partnering with home improvement stores like and to provide energy conservation tips and techniques. And organizers are soliciting neighborhood and homeowner associations for local briefings on energy savings. 

“It’s a one-stop shop,” said Lee Hayes Byron with the county’s sustainability office. “You can search for specific tips, or do a whole-house approach. It’s all in one place.” 

The effort is primarily educational. One program brochure suggests using a programmable thermostat in the winter to lower the overall temperature during the night, and then raise it before your alarm goes off in the morning. Another suggestion recommends turning down the temperature of your hot-water heater to 120 degrees. That alone could save $85 per year.

In perhaps the easiest of all savings, it suggests not pre-rinsing dishes in hot water before putting them in the dishwasher. That could save $70 per year, the brochure says. 

Byron admitted the program offers nothing really new or revolutionary. But the website and printed materials consolidate proven energy-saving techniques with easy-to-use methods of saving on the power bill. The educational program’s motto is “Know More, Do More, Save Move.” 

Things you didn’t know can cost you money. Forget to clean the lint trap on your dryer? Fork over $34 per year. Use hot water to wash your clothes instead of cold? Fork over another $40. The little things you don’t think about add up. And don’t forget to turn out the lights when you leave the room. That’s another $30 per year. Taking care of the lint trap, doing laundry in cold water, and turning out the lights can put an extra $100 in your pocket just by paying attention. It’s your money. 

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