CRESTVIEW — It's summer and many people are considering where to spend their vacation days, whether it's at the beach or the lake, the mountains or far-away amusement parks.

Before leaving town for an extended time away from home or just a weekend getaway, there are several simple steps Gulf Power customers can take to save energy in their home—and save money.

Here are five simple money and energy saving tips when leaving for the annual summer trip:

•Turn down the water heater temperature. Water heating accounts for up to 14-25 percent of the of the energy consumed in homes, with a large percentage of the cost of running a water heater due to the "stand by" losses. No sense heating the water if you are not home to use it. Instead of the recommended setting of 120 degrees, lower the temperature 10-20 degrees or turn the control knob to "vacation mode."  For an electric water heater, turn it off at the circuit breaker panel.

•Set the thermostat (programmable or manual) at a higher temperature than usual. Again, there's no sense cooling a home if no one is there. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends setting air conditioning system thermostats at 85 degrees so the AC will occasionally turn on to remove the humidity.

•Unplug "energy vampires," electronic appliances that even when turned off utilize a small amount of energy, called phantom loads. Some estimates suggest that Americans have anywhere between 20–40 vampire devices throughout their homes, including the coffee maker and grinder, headset and telephone chargers, laptop computer, television, rechargeable toothbrush, and printers among others. Cut standby power by using power strips and turning them off when electronics and appliances are not in use, and using Energy Star products, which use less standby power.

•Close blinds and curtains to moderate the temperature and prevent the air conditioner from running excessively. Windows let in light, which creates excess heat.  

•Make sure all the lights are switched off.  Home owners using timers or motion-detecting lights to create the illusion of being at home should use energy-efficient CFL or LED bulbs in the fixtures that are set to light up.

By following these energy-saving tips and leaving homes in an energy-efficient state, customers can hopefully use the savings on their next vacation.