On a local level, energy suppliers, government partners and nonprofits have worked to spread the goal of reduced energy consumption. Executive Director of Bartow County Environmental Management System Sheri Henshaw remarked on the importance of this recognition.
"The importance of Energy Awareness Month is that this is one way with the ever-increasing spiraling costs in our own homes, in government, in business that we can look to an investment toward future savings. So, Energy Awareness Month is an opportunity to stop, look at our bills, see how we might be wasting a valuable resource and what we might do to fix that and make changes that may, a year from now, create great savings for us," Henshaw said.
The first step in saving electricity can be as simple as changing a light bulb. Henshaw suggests that the change can even be done one bulb at a time. As incandescent bulbs go out, she recommends replacing it with an energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulb. Other inexpensive options include weather-stripping around doors and caulking at seams and joints such as windows and door frames.
"You want to look at any way you can to lower that bill, if it's high now, it's possibly going to get higher," Henshaw said. "It's an important thing to do and [energy use] uses up so many important resources in our community and this is something that even Georgia Power, Cartersville Electric, they're encouraging it because a more efficient community makes for a better use of resources and the more space you have on the grid then you have an opportunity to get a new industry in, new jobs. If you're using all your resources in a community, you don't really have room for growth."
Energy suppliers as well as independent consultants offer energy audits which take a whole-house approach to energy efficiency, identifying problem areas and suggesting solutions. One such organization helping make these changes a possibility for low income homes is Tallatoona Community Action Partnership. Through a federally funded weatherization program, Tallatoona has retrofitted 253 homes since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The ARRA contract running from Aug. 1, 2009, to March 31, 2012, will provide weatherization in 653 homes for families that otherwise could not have afforded the upgrades.
"The weatherization program is a federally funded program and it has been around for many years, but in the past year or two with the stimulus program that the president signed with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it was greatly increased," said Debbie Schmell, Tallatoona CAP executive director. "We are weatherizing homes in six different counties and Bartow is one of them. ... It lowers the energy cost for the client and it also reduces the energy consumption in our country, so it's a good thing in many different ways for us."
During the month of September, Tallatoona weatherized 29 homes in their six-county region. One of those homes belonged to Bartow County residents Bud and Marie Fowler. The retired couple lives on a fixed income of Social Security benefits and a small retirement fund. For them, the benefits of weatherization were greatly appreciated.
"They did so much I can't remember all of it. We absolutely love it. We are thankful for it. And they were very nice. All the workers were as nice as could be. It tickled us to death because we never could have afforded to do the stuff they came in and done. I'm sure it cost them a lot of money," Marie Fowler said. "I wouldn't even know it needed done, a lot of the stuff. First, they sent guys out here to test it. They tested the house and that way they knew what areas they needed to work on."
The Fowlers' home received new attic insulation, duct repair and insulation, new bathroom fans, new insulation around their hot water heater, new smoke detectors, ground covering in the crawl space and a complete HVAC unit inspection. The couple's biggest surprise came when Tallatoona replaced their refrigerator that was purchased 24 years ago when they moved in to the home. The unit, which can become one of the most inefficient appliances when not operating properly, was replaced with an Energy STAR-approved refrigerator.
"We really appreciated it," Marie Fowler said. "They help you on the electric bill too if you can be there early enough. ... It worked out real good. We qualified for two months, they paid our light bill for like two months, which really helped us. Because when you live on a fixed income, anything like that helps."
For more information on Tallatoona CAP, call 770-382-5388.
For other resources concerning energy conservation, visit www.bartowga.org/kbb or visit the Keep Bartow Beautiful booth at CelEARTHbration, a free "eco-family" event. CelEARTHbration will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For information on home energy audits, contact an energy supplier.