Energy adviser: Home energy audit helps curtail waste

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If you’re a residential customer of Clark Public Utilities, you can find out just about all you need to know when it comes to energy use at home by visiting www.clarkpublicutilities.com.

There, you will find a list of ways to eliminate wasted energy and tips for how to best operate and maintain everything from a home heating system to a refrigerator. In addition, there’s a free “home energy calculator” to help you discover where your energy dollars are going and compare usage to averages for homes similar in size to yours all in less than five minutes.

But if a high electric bill has you buffaloed, or you want to make sure your systems aren’t using more electricity than they need to, don’t hesitate to ring up a utility energy counselor of the day at 360-992-3355 or send an email to ecod@clarkpud.com to get advice specific to your home and lifestyle.

“We always have an energy counselor available to answer that phone Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.” explains DuWayne Dunham, energy counselor team leader. “Many times we can address concerns and answer specific questions right on the phone so customers can begin to make changes right away.”

Free program

For some, an in-home energy audit may be the best way to address an issue. Here are some questions and answers about the Clark Public Utilities free energy audit program:

Who benefits most from an in-home energy audit?

• Customers who see a sudden increase in energy use without dramatic changes to the living situation.

• Anyone considering a significant weatherization project or heating system upgrade.

• Customers interested in making sure they are doing all they can not to waste energy

“We do our best to help the majority of customers over the phone but there are definitely times when it helps to actually get in and see what’s going on,” Dunham said. “In those cases, one of our counselors will visit the home, take a look with the customer, and be able to identify specific ways to cut down on wasted energy.”

How long does an audit usually take?

One to two hours.

Who’s eligible?

All Clark Public Utilities customers.

What are the most common problems uncovered during an audit?

• Electrical systems or major appliances heating, water heating, refrigeration, laundry not operating as efficiently as they could if operated or maintained differently.

• Inadequate insulation levels in the home.

• Furnace filter maintenance issues.

• Incorrectly programmed thermostats or thermostats that are no longer functioning properly.

When is the best time of year to do an audit?

Any time of the year works, but because many customers are interested in saving on winter bills, it is best to schedule an audit in late summer or early fall, well before the heating season begins. That allows time to make the recommended changes before the cold weather sets in.

While it’s best to plan ahead, the utility does receive the most calls in the winter, when customers want to lower heating bills as quickly as possible. Many of the measures that can reduce wasted energy need to be installed well before the winter months to lower heating bills, but when possible, energy counselors do their best to recommend quick fixes that may be able to help immediately in the middle of winter.

How many audits did Clark Public Utilities energy counselors conduct in 2011?

Last year, counselors will perform 343 in-home energy audits and responded to another 122 “high bill” inquiries. In total, the team completed 465 residential energy visits in Clark County.

Also, the utility completed 73 commercial customer audits in 2011 for building owners interested in energy savings and efficiency.

Energy Fact: As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. With that in mind, consider lowering your indoor temperature during the cold months. For every one degree that your thermostat is lowered in winter, for an eight hour period, you save one to two percent on your heating bill. In summer, use a ceiling fan instead of air conditioning.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. For more information, call 360-992-3355, email ecod@clarkpud.com or visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com.