Published April 29, 2020
Multiple issues motivate someone to reach out to CUB. Often, people want to save money. Other times, they are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact or participate more in renewable energy. For many, it’s a combination of reasons. Luckily the suggestions we offer consumers can help with all of the above. Holly Buchanan’s reasons for reaching out to CUB are a great example of interrelated goals.
Holly was interested in how she could reduce her family’s carbon footprint, shrink their energy budgets, and prepare a better life for her two children. She wanted to be an active participant and wanted to learn about what energy savings she wasn’t taking advantage of yet. That’s how Holly ended up signing up for a consultation at a utility bill clinic with CUB’s Outreach Director, Carmen Carruthers.
In 2015, Holly’s home was installed with rooftop solar, and she wanted to know how much energy they were producing in relation to the family’s consumption. She needed an expert eye to help her understand their bills, and education was the first step.
When CUB staff talk with consumers who are interested in rooftop solar, we stress the importance of energy efficiency first before renewable energy options. While Holly felt she was pretty informed about tips to save energy from her previous experience getting solar energy, she was still surprised by some of the suggestions.
“After speaking with Carmen, I felt more informed about the energy choices our family was making, and she made me feel like we were doing our part in the bigger picture. She didn’t make me feel guilty about what I couldn’t contribute but was understanding that everyone is trying our best, and we can accomplish a lot by starting to look at our usage,” said Holly.
In particular, Holly says their thermostat had a 3 degrees differential, but after the consultation, she learned that she could program her thermostat up or down 10 degrees when her family is asleep or away to maximize energy savings. Each degree you adjust can save up to 3 percent of your home’s gas use. Other energy savings measures Holly’s family has implemented after the consultation included line drying or, if they use the dryer, running it at a low-temperature setting. They’ve installed more power strips throughout their home that they switch off when electronics aren’t in use to reduce plug loads, and they signed up for Xcel’s Saver’s Switch program, which saves them 15 percent on their electric bills from June through September. Whenever they can, they also run their dishwasher overnight, which doesn’t actually reduce their current bill, but it helps take advantage of the plentiful and inexpensive power that is generated overnight.
All in all, CUB’s recommendations helped Holly’s family save nearly $250. Holly said she expects her current water heater, stove/oven, and dryer will need replacement in the future. She said after the energy consultation with Carmen about electrifying these major appliances she is better prepared to make informed energy decisions for her family. Electrifying these appliances will cut back on carbon emissions — a priority for her family — and they can save money on these appliances by taking advantage of utility rebates.
When speaking to Holly about how this has impacted her family, she says her son jokes everything she talks about is energy related.
“We’re an environmentally conscious household and I try to instill these values in my children. After my consultation with Carmen, I spoke to my neighbors and families about what they could do to offset their energy use too. I do my part in spreading the word about the services CUB offers, too. At our kids’ school, I’m part of their green team and in the school’s newspaper, I wrote about energy tips that CUB provided and the free energy consultations.”
Holly hopes to support more of CUB’s advocacy at the legislature and PUC by being better informed about energy policy.
“While energy policy isn’t my background, I am very interested in promoting innovative energy conservation and renewable energy policies. Knowing how I can further CUB’s voice would be great. To have a consumer advocate that is approachable for everyday people is incredibly valuable and everyone should be involved.”
Request an energy consultation yourself, or just contact us at 651-300-4701. (Our staff are working remotely and continuing to provide consultations via phone and web.)
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