Energy Awareness – Energy Costs – Energy Efficiency: What Can You Do?
By Paula Blair, Annette Craft & Christine Bucher
October is “National Energy Awareness Month”, an effort to help citizens understand the importance of energy to our prosperity, security and environment. This may seem “over our heads” to us on the local level in our own households, but October is also a good time for us to consider our own energy consumption and how we can reduce it thereby saving money, time and the environment.
Colder weather is just around the corner and a nip is now in the air, and many of us welcome winter with snow falling and building snowmen and sledding. Others, however, look at winter and are filled with stress, frustration and feelings of dread. Heating bills are higher and some are left in the cold.
Last month, Jen Kinney wrote in a blog posting on the Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC) website about a study she co-authored by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and The Energy Efficiency for All Coalition. This study shows that low-income families, minorities and rental households may pay as much as 7.2% of their household income paying for energy. Other studies reveal that low-income families spend anywhere from 17% to more than 50% of their income on household energy while other families spend on average 4%.
These energy costs reflect the condition of those who live in low-income housing – usually older homes which lack proper insulations, have older appliances and are less likely to have the resources to mitigate these effects. However, even in newer homes older appliances, inefficient thermostats and leaky windows can lead to increased energy costs.
What can be done? Surprisingly, there are many resources available to individuals and families who are struggling with energy costs.
November 1 through April 30, you can apply for assistance through LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program), a federally program that helps eligible families, seniors and individuals pay for a portion of their winter home heating costs.
Throughout the year, Energy Outreach Colorado, through its partner agencies, helps low-income Coloradans with energy and heating assistance, emergency furnace repair and energy efficiency improvements.
Another local resource, Energy Resource Center (ERC), can help landlords and renters make their homes more energy efficient. Qualified individuals and families can request a free energy assessment to determine what changes can be made to help make homes more energy efficient, thereby saving money. ERC can also provide assistance in making the recommended changes. Those who are not struggling financially can also request an energy assessment from ERC for a small fee and learn how to save money in the process.
On October 20th, ERC will hold a class at Tri-Lakes Cares about energy efficiency, weatherization and the services they provide. It will start at 12:30 p.m. and last about 45 minutes. Contact your case manager to sign up.
In addition, our case managers at Tri-Lakes Cares can help you access help for energy costs. Contact Annette (719-481-4864, x 102 / A-L) or Paula (719-481-4864, x 112 / M-Z) for questions or how to get help.
In the meantime, here are some simple things that all of us can do to help bring down our energy costs (source ERC’s website):
- Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms.
- Clean or change your furnace filter.
- Clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator, removing dust and other debris which causes the unit to use more energy to run.
- Keep your thermostat lower at night or when no one is home.
- Fill your dishwasher completely before running it.
- Caulk drafty windows.
- Unplug appliances or electronic devices rarely used (even if these items are not on, just by being plugged in, they are drawing power).
Challenge your family to bring down your energy costs and you might be surprised how small changes can make a difference!