Smart Energy: June 2017

Smart Energy: Recruiting Energy Champions!

By Jim Stelson

In numerous public forums around the county, Douglas County Smart Energy has been recruiting energy champions — homeowners willing to take actions to make their homes more energy efficient and to share the success stories with their communities. For The News-Review readers who missed these forums, this is your notice: You, too, can become an energy champion and reduce your utility bills. Douglas County Smart Energy is ready to help you with free technical assistance.

Perhaps, you have trouble interpreting your components of your utility bill, the units of energy and the seasonal variation in the amounts. We can help. Each utility bill provides a 12-month history of energy consumption. After reviewing the history and getting an inventory of the heating /cooling equipment, water heaters, refrigerators/freezers and major appliances, we can give you a profile of energy use by appliance or system. This is a critical step in setting priorities for energy efficiency. We identify the biggest users of energy, and the least efficient equipment and then explore the options to improve upon them.

 Sometimes, efficiency can be substantially improved through maintenance, repairs or operations adjustments. An example of maintenance is replacing insulation that was torn or removed. An example of repairs is sealing a heating duct that is leaking at a joint. An example of an operations adjustment is a thermostat set point adjustment on a water heater, freezer or heating system. Operations and maintenance savings add up quickly and often cost little to execute. They should be done first before considering equipment purchases or upgrades.

Even if you have done some efficiency upgrades in the past, do not assume that all is done that can be done. New and better technologies are developing every year. Heat pumps and refrigerators are much more efficient than they were a few years ago. LED lights are superior to incandescent and fluorescent in both energy efficiency and bulb life.

The ductless heat pump is a great money saver compared to electric resistance heating. Heat pump water heaters produce hot water for about one-third the cost of a traditional electric water heater. You may not have to pay full sticker price for these new, efficient home appliances. Some are supported with rebates from the Energy Trust of Oregon (for Pacific Power customers) or Douglas Electric Cooperative. We can help you determine your eligibility for rebates.

DC Smart Energy also supports individual and community efforts with renewable energy — primarily solar power. Douglas County has good solar resources. During the summer, when the sun’s rays are strongest, we have many cloudless days. If you want to explore solar for your property, DC Smart Energy can help you down that path as well.

So, become an energy champion today! Contact Nicole Mandall, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Community Coordinator: or by phone at 678-848-5618.

Jim Stelson is a mechanical engineer and consults on energy efficiency in hospitals. He lives in a “net zero” home in Lookingglass.

Douglas County Smart Energy is a project of Douglas County Global Warming Coalition. For more information on energy efficiency and renewable energy, visit