By Alicia Wrigley-Gailey, Office of Sustainability
With gorgeous fall weather lasting this far in to November, it can be easy to forget that a frigid winter is just around the corner. But now, before the cold comes, is the perfect time to start making small changes that make a big impact when it comes to winter energy savings.
Don’t know where to start? That’s where the Energy Ambassadors come in.
The Student Energy Ambassadors program, now in its second year, is a service offered by the Office of Sustainability in partnership with Questar Gas and Rocky Mountain Power. It provides free home energy audits, conducted by trained student Energy Ambassadors, to University of Utah students. During these audits, the Energy Ambassadors help students analyze their usage habits, identify inefficient areas in the home, and find solutions for inefficiencies that result in lower power and gas bills.
“The energy audits are a way to get more familiar with the consumption that we all partake in on a daily basis,” says Energy Ambassador Natan Chetrit. “Our personal habits can either be really good or really bad, but we all perceive our own habits as good. This program creates more self-awareness about exactly what your footprint is. Most people want to do the right things and change their habits, but they just need someone to give them a little push. We provide that.”
The process of an energy audit is simple, and comes with a lot of perks for students. Once interested students contact them through email, one of the three energy ambassadors will schedule a convenient time for an appointment at the student’s home. Chetrit says that most audits are finished within an hour.
Once on site, the Energy Ambassadors give a short questionnaire about the energy use habits of everyone in the house or apartment, which helps them identify ways that energy could be saved. Based on the answers, they are able to suggest small behavioral changes that can end up saving a lot of energy, water, or gas, such as: programming the thermostat to lower the temperature at night during the winter, using lamps instead of overhead lights for certain tasks, patching seams in doors and windows where cold air leaks in, fixing leaky faucets, or lowering the heat setting on water heaters.
Energy Ambassador Alev Bilginsoy said that identifying these possible behavioral changes is the part of the audit that she considers most important.
“Sustainability isn’t necessarily something you have to purchase into. You don’t have to buy cloth shopping bags or recycled material water bottles or notebooks. It’s not something that has to come with spending your money. The first place to start if you want to be sustainable is to look inwardly and figure out how to curb your usage,” Bilginsoy says.
Once behavior is addressed, the Energy Ambassadors go to work making small changes in the home that students might normally forgo simply because of cost. They replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact florescent lamp (CFL) bulbs. If the ambassadors find phantom power use from appliances that consume energy even when turned off, a problem common to TVs and gaming systems, they provide the student with a smart power strip, which cuts off electricity use when devices are turned off. Additionally, the ambassadors trade out inefficient showerheads and faucets for water-saving low flow attachments.
And remember, students who invite the Energy Ambassadors to audit their homes receive all of their services, even the replacement bulbs and power strip, at no cost whatsoever.
As a student himself, Chetrit says that energy audits are too good a deal to pass up.
“The items together add up to be over a $60 value and produce savings into the future. It’s a heck of a deal for students,” Chetrit says.
“Audits are convenient, they don’t take a lot of time, and we’re going to give you free stuff. Why wouldn’t you want that?” he asks.
Interested in a free audit? Signing up is easy. Fill out the online sign up form, or call the Office of Sustainability at 801-585-9352. Audits are open to all students, including homeowners, renters, residence hall dwellers, and students that live with their parents (with their permission, of course).
Alicia Wrigley-Gailey is a senior in Communication and Jazz Performance. She is a Sustainability Ambassador with the Office of Sustainability.