As part of your Fourth of July activities, challenge your family to “beat the heat” and save money on your energy bill. Provide them with this check list of low-cost energy saving tips and once they’ve completed it, celebrate with popsicles all around!
- Cooking, lighting and using other appliances account for about 30 percent of your home’s energy bill, so using them less saves you money. To cut down on the use of your hot over, get creative and try out some new recipes.
- Switch out incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). About 90 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs is released in the form of heat, so replacing them with CFLs is cooler. Look for areas where a small lamp can be used instead of a room light and make sure lights are off when not needed.
- Running the dishwasher and dryer also generates heat. Try operating them only at night and when they are full, and skip the heated drying option on your dishwasher.
- Another heat producer is your refrigerator. Move it away from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils. If you have more than one refrigerator or freezer, consolidate if you can and unplug any unnecessary appliances.
- If you need to replace a home appliance, choose the most efficient unit available. An Energy Star® label means it uses at least 10 percent less energy than required by current federal standards.
- Inspect the filters on your furnace and air conditioner to see if they need to be replaced. Write a reminder to change filters every three months.
- Check your home thermostat. If you have an air conditioner, set the temperature to about 78 degrees. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat to do the work for you.
- The windows in your main living areas are the largest source of heat gain in your home. During the day keep them shut and window coverings closed. In the evening, open windows and window coverings to let in cooling breezes.
- Summer heat also enters your home through leaks around walls, windows and doors. Repair any damaged or loose caulking and weather stripping. Pay special attention to plumbing outlets, vents and recessed light fixtures.
A steady job. A car. A house. These are the things Lonzo V. dreamed about growing up in Oklahoma. He started working at age 8, cutting weeds. When his family of nine moved to Colorado for better opportunities, he found a job at a vet supply warehouse and worked his way up over the next 17 years, often putting in 80-hour weeks for the overtime.
Lonzo lived his dream for 30 years, until his body wore down from the years of lifting, stairs and ladders. He developed occupational asthma from the long-term exposure to chemicals at the warehouse. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and suffered lasting consequences from surgery. And, at age 57 he had knee replacement surgery but something went terribly wrong. After a series of X-rays and MRIs, he discovered the wrong-sized replacement had been used and he had to have another surgery to correct it. Again, his leg became swollen “foot to hip” and another doctor told him the second procedure hadn’t been done properly.
After two years of debilitating pain, he could no longer work and the medical bills piled up. “All I dreamed about got shattered,” he said. “It was a nightmare.”
Lonzo’s sister helped him as much as she could with his house payments and he got additional assistance from Denver Urban Matters (DENUM). A caseworker helped him apply for unemployment, disability benefits and energy assistance funding from Energy Outreach Colorado, and his overdue home energy bill recently was paid off.
“I was so happy because there was no way I could catch up, being on a fixed income now,” he said. “I would have been cold. It was a gift from God and I am thankful and really appreciate it.”
Lonzo’s dream these days is to resolve his health issues. “I want to get back to the way it used to be,” he said.
Energy assistance helped hardworking Lonzo cope with medical and financial hardship.
Energy Outreach Colorado's ongoing work to support affordable home energy for Coloradans has earned it an impressive place on Charity Navigator's national list of "10 Charities with the Most Consecutive 4-Star Ratings."
EOC is the only nonprofit in the West to make the list. Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of thousands of American charities, ranked Energy Outreach Colorado third in the nation as a non-profit organization that demonstrates ongoing fiscal excellence and is "well-positioned to pursue and achieve long-term change." EOC has received 14 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator.
"We are fortunate to have many generous supporters who believe in our mission and make it possible for us to do this important work," said Skip Arnold, EOC's executive director. He added, "Ensuring that families and seniors across all income-levels can afford energy for their homes is a complex and critical mission and we're dedicated to continuously finding better ways to achieve this."
Energy Outreach Colorado’s Homeless to Home program provides limited-income families and individuals the ability to move into permanent housing by paying off utility bills from previous residences that prevented them from establishing utility service in their new homes. The program also helps clients avoid eviction by providing energy assistance to households that have experienced homelessness within the past 6 months.
This story, re-printed with the permission of reporter Sarah Grasmick at The Pueblo Chieftain, details the story of a Pueblo grandmother who has been helped through Homeless to Home.
A grandmother who is unable to work due to kidney failure struggles is unable to pay for basic necessities for herself and her two grandchildren she is raising.
Mary Obley, 64, has experienced adversity for years. Her husband died of a heart attack while their children were young; she lost a baby; is on dialysis three times a week; and receives some of her food from food banks.
“I got into these situations not because I wanted to,” Obley said. “They just happened.”
An old energy bill she wasn’t able to pay came close to worsening her struggles. If the bill was left unpaid, she wouldn’t have the opportunity to move into public housing.
Obley wanted her own residence to raise her preteen granddaughters, so she searched for help — and found it.
“She turned to Catholic Charities of Pueblo, which partners with Energy Outreach Colorado to provide energy bill payment assistance, and was enrolled in EOC’s Homeless to Home program,” indicated a press release from EOC. “Through the program, Mary’s debt was paid and she’ll receive extensive case management, including budgeting and other resource support for six months as she becomes self-sufficient.”
This type of support can be life changing for people who are struggling financially, said Brittany Taylor, Catholic Charities case manager.
“Sometimes this kind of assistance is the only way for someone to get back on solid ground and break the cycle of poverty,” she said.
Obley said the nonprofits took away a massive burden. “I will always be grateful for them for helping me,” she said.
Brittany Taylor, left, Catholic Charities case manager, works with Mary on paperwork.
Financial assistance isn’t the only way to help limited-income Coloradans afford home energy. Energy Outreach Colorado also is encouraging residents to lower their energy bills through energy education and energy-saving actions.
EOC and Xcel Energy are partnering to study the impact of providing broader support to Xcel Energy customers who apply for EOC energy bill payment assistance. This approach potentially will reduce these customers’ future need for energy bill payment assistance, increase their ability to effectively manage home energy costs and lower the overall energy demand in Colorado.
“Through past experience we’ve seen households get excited about lowering their bills and conserving energy after learning more about simple changes they can make at home,” said Nicole O’Connor, manager of EOC’s Energy Behavior Change Program. “We want to share these benefits with as many Coloradans as we can.”
EOC works with a statewide network of assistance organizations to distribute its energy assistance funding, and case managers at some of those agencies are being trained to provide energy-conservation information along with bill payment assistance. Recipients also pledge to carry out certain actions in their homes, such as turning off a power strip when not using appliances, and also sign-up for additional opportunities such as in-home installation of low-cost energy improvements and incentives for reaching goals.
In cases where more extensive energy improvements are needed, customers will be referred for free home services including furnace repair and weatherization improvements.
The program is funded by Xcel Energy and is initially being implemented in Grand Junction, Alamosa and the Denver metro area.
Energy Outreach staff playing Energy Bingo,top, and meeting with residents in their home, above,to encourage energy conservation.
Residents pledge to save energy through behaviors such as
unplugginig unused appliances.
Think you are an energy whiz? Looking for new ways to lower your monthly energy bill? Take our eight- question Energy Quiz! You’ll learn simple ways to use energy more wisely and replace energy-guzzling appliances around your house or apartment. Share with your friends to see how you match up. For more great energy saving tips, sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter. You’ll also have access to tons of energy-related facts, EOC stories from the field and insight into the clients we serve.
Energy Outreach Colorado’s experience with the issue of home energy unaffordability is featured in an article recently published in Inside Energy, a digital newsletter published by a collaborative public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Journalists Dan Boyce and Jordan Wirfs-Brock explain that a common benchmark establishes that paying six percent of one’s income for utilities is considered affordable, but many limited-income Americans pay 20% or more of their income on energy.
In the article, Skip Arnold, Energy Outreach Colorado’s executive director, explains that EOC and other organizations work to fill in the affordability gap so that struggling households can afford other necessities such as food, medical care and rent.
To see the full article go to http://insideenergy.org/2016/05/08/high-utility-costs-force-hard-decisions-for-the-poor/.
Below, Lea Anne Shellberg, with daughter, struggles to afford home energy after a broken back and recurring battle with skin cancer ended her career as an interior designer.
A single mom working hard to make ends meet faced a difficult choice when her 6-year-old son began to struggle in school. To spend more time with him, she’d have to cut back on her work hours. Because of the seasonal nature of her Estes Park community, she worked long hours at a local restaurant May through October and part-time during the winter.
“I was working lots of hours, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, trying to get all the hours I could,” she said. But as the school year progressed she knew her son needed her, so she opted not to work part-time and instead focused on parenting. “I had to buckle down and re-teach him respect, responsibility, accountability,” she said.
With the help of teachers she was able to get her son back on track, but her finances suffered. She contacted Crossroads Ministry, which distributes Energy Outreach Colorado funding, and received assistance to catch up on her electric bill as well as supplies from the food pantry.
“What I gained is a little more respect for myself as a mother to know when it’s time to do what’s best for my son,” she said in a letter to Crossroads Ministry.
Tim McLemore, executive director at Crossroads Ministry, said his organization greatly appreciates being part of EOC's stataewide network. "Energy Outreach Colorado's help with utilities has made all the difference for this family and for many others in the Estates Valley," he added.
Participants take notes during a Crossroads Ministry budgeting class.
One of the benefits of EOC’s Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP) is the learning that is shared among participating nonprofits. For example, Warren Village First Step, a Denver nonprofit that provides a transitional living program for women and children, shared how their organization lowered energy costs by remotely pulling the plug on unused office electronics.
First Step Program Manager Victoria Ambrosio and her team learned that if they unplugged office equipment such as printers, coffee makers, phone charters and fax machines at the end of their work day, they could save the “phantom energy load” that the appliances would be using if they were turned off but still plugged in.
To make this simpler, they began using a Smart Strip, which is a smart power strip that can be remotely turned off to cut the energy that normally would be pulled from devices that are turned off. The remote-control can be adhesively placed next to light switches, thermostats or doors to help staff remember to turn off the smart strip on their way home.
This practice has helped Warren Village First Step reduce their energy bill by as much as 10%, which they can apply to such client services as employment training or clothing assistance. It is one of the strategies included in their comprehensive energy conservation plan developed through their NEEP participation with the guidance of EOC’s Energy Behavior Change team.
To engage Warren Village’s residents in energy-saving efforts, EOC staff led an onsite Energy Jeopardy Life Skills class. Residents are working together with staff to turn off unused lights and electronics and reduce the use of space heaters.
For more energy tips go to http://www.energyoutreach.org/get-help/energy-tips
Below, EOC's Erin Fried, right, leads Energy Jeopardy with Warren village residents.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE EOC BLOG