PEORIA — In spite of sparse attendance, representatives at the kickoff event for the Community Energy Savings Initiative were eager to talk about the numerous ways people can conserve energy and save money.
The meeting, which was held Saturday afternoon at the Peoria Public Library's Lincoln Branch, was staffed by representatives from the Citizens Utility Board, the Sierra Club, Elevate Energy and Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance.
“We want to give people concrete ways to make their homes more comfortable and save money right away,” said Joe Laszlo of CHICA.
While a new furnace and windows can help homes become more efficient, they are big investments that likely won't pay for themselves in the long run, said Cate York of the Citizens Utility Board.
“About 68 percent of energy loss is caused by insufficient air sealing,” she said. “Air comes in through holes in the wall, like outlets and cracks.”
The biggest offender in most homes is the rim joist, at the base of the structure just above the basement, said Marissa Joyce, a field organizer with Elevate Energy.
“When workmen drill holes for things like cable or utilities, they don’t take the time to seal them up,” she said. Sealing little holes in the rim joist and walls, and around windows and doors can lead to tremendous savings.
Joyce also talked about the smart meters most area Ameren customers received during the past few months. While the old meters recorded energy usage over the course of a month, the new meters record how much energy is used each hour. The change has allowed Ameren to offer new programs to help people save money.
“Ameren’s Power Smart pricing program takes advantage of hourly usage data on our meters,” she said. “We can take advantage of the fact that the price of energy varies through the day.”
Customers who sign up for the program will no longer pay a flat rate for every kilowatt-hour used. They pay the actual market rate for energy. The price increases during peak usage hours to as much as 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, and decreases during low usage hours to as low as 2-cents per kilowatt hour.
While the Power Smart Program might not be right for everyone, it can benefit people who actively work to reduce their power usage during peak usage hours, said Joyce.
Another way to reduce energy costs is to install a smart thermostat, like Nest, said Joyce. With the homeowner’s help, the thermostat will program itself, reducing energy usage automatically when the house is unoccupied. The thermostat will quickly pay for itself in energy savings, she said. Joyce gives a Nest thermostat to people willing to invite a few friends and family members to their home to hear her talk about energy efficiency.
"It's like a Tupperware party, but instead of buying something you learn how to make your home more efficient," she said. Learn more by calling Joyce at (217) 481-4781.
Saturday's Community Energy Savings Initiative meeting was an attempt to tell people about some great programs they may not be aware of. One program for low income residents could save them almost $700 on their winter heating bill, said Cynthia Hsieh, an independent solar consultant working for several public agencies.
“It’s sponsored by PCCEO and it’s called the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP,” she said. “It’s open to homeowners or renters, anyone with an Ameren bill.”
For information about the program, visit www.pcceo.org/pages/Energy-Assistance or call PCCEO at 671-3900.
Organizers are planning to have more educational events starting in January.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.