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Restoring the power balance

When you open an atypically high utility bill, plenty of questions run through your head … along with that DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN music.

Is something broken? Are we turning things off when we’re not using them? Have our appliances stopped working? Does someone come by while we’re gone to blast the central air with the doors open?

OK, that last bit probably isn’t the reason… unless maybe you’ve made someone really angry. But the others? Maybe, along with other unseen, unexpected home energy traps.
Finding the culprit requires a skillful blend of sleuthing and science. For Tipmont REMC members, that’s where Tipmont Energy Advisor Grant Easter and his colleagues come in.
They offer free, in-home energy-use assessments for members who request them and leave behind easy, helpful and cost-effective ideas to save energy.

“We work with people to find that ‘a-ha’ moment and help them figure out the issue,” Easter said.

After the member’s request and a review of use, Easter (or another advisor) works to schedule the assessment as quickly as possible; reasons can often be seasonal. Assessments start with a visual scan – home setup, what you do and don’t use, etc. Then, the advisor undergoes detailed investigations into your appliances, HVAC setup, lighting and more.


Energy Assessments

*Source: U.S. Department of Energy

“People use energy differently based on where they are in their house, so we go room by room to get a feel for what’s happening,” Easter said. “Sometimes it’s the way equipment is set up or how air flows through the house.

“Power strips sometimes pull a lot of energy, even when electronics are on standby. Space heaters or candle warmers pull a lot more power than people think. Some candle warmers run at 25 watts, and one space heater alone can add $110 to your bill each month.”

Advisors can conduct air tests to determine if your home has air leaks. They can also attach a Sense Home Energy Monitor to your breaker box for a real-time energy report. Using a smartphone, you can see use instantaneously.

At our house, Easter and I went from room to room, tracking the watts. As the refrigerator compressor kicked in, use spiked. Switch off the circulating central air fan? 700 watts. Turn off the basement dehumidifier? Another 600 watts. If we get our basement’s supply-and-return combination right, Easter advised, that could handle the dehumidifying for us … and save $50 a month. It’s a bit like “24,” with behind-the-scenes bugaboos as the bad guys are being tracked.

Once the assessment is done, Tipmont members receive customized reports that outline findings and ways to address them (with cost comparisons). They also receive an energy-saving kit, which includes:

  • A Smart Strip power strip
  • Refrigerator thermometers
  • A “101 Ways to Save Energy” booklet
  • The Kill-a-Watt, a neat device that measures how many watts devices pull down when powered on/in standby mode, and
  • Energy-efficient LED light bulbs, the use of which the Consumer Federation of America recently reported could save up to $1,000 over 10 years.

“Even if you’re not concerned about your bill and you’re seeking ways to save more energy or understand how you and your home use electricity, this is a great program,” Easter said. “Any Tipmont member should take advantage of it. There’s no cost, so why not?”

Picture of Rob Ford

Rob Ford

Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015. Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.

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May 6, 2024
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