by Whitney Oswald
University of Utah students, staff, and faculty: have you heard of the student energy ambassadors? How about rumors of free energy evaluations for students?
Whether you already know a little bit about us or not, I would like to tell you about the Student Energy Ambassadors and our free energy evaluation program offered through the Office of Sustainability with support from Rocky Mountain Power and Questar Gas.
Let me first explain the basics. Energy evaluations are provided to students completely free of charge. Additionally, we will give you lots of power saving supplies – compact fluorescent light bulbs, smart-strips, faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads, water heater blankets, and pipe insulation. All of these energy saving devices will help you take a step in the right direction to become more energy efficient. The energy evaluation process is also very easy. First, sign up for an evaluation. To do this, go to the Office of Sustainability home page (http://sustainability.utah.edu/), and click the banner at the top for “Home Energy Evaluation,” or contact any of the three of the Energy Ambassadors by email (see below). Once we’ve received your request, you will be contacted by one of the energy ambassadors to set an appointment. The visits last about one hour.
Evaluations are pretty low key, and the energy ambassadors are students, just like you. Here is what can you expect once your evaluation has been scheduled:
- Two trained Energy Ambassadors will show up at your door carrying clipboards and backpacks full of tools and supplies.
- They will introduce themselves and explain the process, which is as simple as telling you that they will be filling out a form as they take a tour around your place, making sure to inspect some specific areas on the way.
- They will need to enter your contact information on the form in order to provide you with feedback and information following the evaluation.
- You will need to guide them around your house as they examine your rooms for things like lighting, electronics use, window quality, heating cooling vents, faucets, and anything else that may be adding to your gas or electric bill. They will even want you to take them to your dark cellar – the one you probably try to avoid – so they can check out your water heater and furnace.
- Along the way they will also ask you questions about your energy usage, things like, “Do you turn lights off when you leave a room?” or, “Do you turn your thermostat down at night?” Additionally, they will be giving you feedback as they go. For example, if they find drafty windows, they will explain different options available to you to make them more efficient.
If you have any questions along the way, feel free to ask. And don’t worry, as the saying goes, “There are no dumb questions. “ The free power-saving supplies mentioned above will be distributed to you during the evaluation, and we’ll explain their use and help install as necessary. At the end of the audit, we will answer any final questions you may have, and we will gather our supplies and leave your home as we found it, only a bit more energy efficient.
After the audit you won’t quite be done with us yet. About 30-days after the evaluation, we will send you a quick survey. It will only take about five minutes to fill out and will include questions relating to whether you have continued to implement some of the ideas we presented to you during the evaluation. Also, we want you to tell us how we did. This is the first year for the program, and we would like it to continue for additional years. Having feedback from participants about how we can improve the program is invaluable.
Finally, you will receive from us via email a list of energy efficient options specific to your home that would help to improve its efficiency, a list of resources relating to different focus areas of energy efficiency, and a list of resources that you can pass on to your landlord about efficiency programs they can participate in.
It is important for everyone to do their part to increase the efficiency of their own home. This is an easy way to begin that process. For many students, increasing the efficiency of their home may not seem like an easy task, because often they are renters and don’t have the access or the ability to make major efficiency modifications to their homes. However, we want to help students realize that there are actually a lot of small and cost-effective things that they can do. These things can really add up to better savings in energy and money. Installing efficient light bulbs, using and turning off power strips to prevent “phantom power,” and installing simple insulating materials around leaky doors or windows are some examples.
Participating in one of the Office of Sustainability’s Student Energy Ambassador home energy evaluations provides an easy way for you to save some cash, shrink your carbon footprint, and even get some freebies. Also, don’t worry if you live on campus, off campus, in student housing, in Greek housing, or even if you are a student who has his or her own house, we want to reach ALL students with our energy evaluations. So if you’re interested, let us know!
The three energy ambassadors are: