By Todd Thom, Navy Region Hawaii Housing Liaison
The Navy Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) is reaching its fourth year at the Navy/Forest City public private venture (PPV) housing in Hawaii.
By now, residents should be familiar with RECP and the fact that the cost of Hawaii electricity is the highest in the nation. Navy Region Hawaii and Forest City Residential Management also recognize this and have been conducting “Know Load” assessments to help Forest City residents conserve electricity and lower their monthly consumption.
The “Know Load” program helps residents learn about the electricity load their home is carrying each month as well as how simple behavior modifications in the household can achieve energy savings. The assessment is first conducted over the phone where the resident provides answers to basic questions such as “how often is the air conditioning used in the home, how often is the filter changed, or at what temperature is the thermostat set?”
Many residents have been able to reduce their monthly electric consumption from these phone assessments. However, other residents have benefited from “Know Load” experts actually visiting their homes to have face-to-face interactions, view the “plug load” (number of household items using electricity), and check the operational efficiency of the air conditioning system, water heater, etc.
Residents desiring a “Know Load” assessment can contact their respective Forest City Resident Service Office to make an appointment. The Navy housing office also conducts outreach assessments for residents who have high electricity bill payments.
Dr. Sabita Mullins of Radford housing shared the results from working with the “Know Load” program. “We received our energy bill today, and let me just say what a huge relief it was to see the amount due: $21.51. What a difference from the previous bills of $300-400. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to come by and do an assessment of our usage,” Mullins said.
Earlier this year (reference article in Feb. 28, 2014 edition of Ho`okele), we shared some findings from our assessments and believe it is valuable to share them again. It’s important for residents to change their filters monthly and ensure that the air conditioning drain is removing the condensation. A clogged air conditioning filter reduces air flow and increases the electrical load.
Residents should be mindful of the air conditioner’s operation by checking it weekly to ensure the area around the air conditioning unit remains dry. Many air conditioning thermostats are set at 72 degrees—which is actually a very costly setting. Remember that 78 degrees is the national standard because it takes into consideration safety, comfort and conservation.
Another very important and potentially costly appliance to operate is the water heater. Residents can check the space around the water heater frequently to ensure it is dry and free of leaks. They should also check to make sure the water heater timer reflects the correct time of the day, and the timer pins are set for periods when the sun is available.
The “Know Loads” team found timers were incorrectly set due to a power interruption, resulting in the home using electrical power instead of the sun for heating water. Maximizing the sunlight to power the water heater can reduce electrical costs by as much as 20 percent.
Many items plugged in and not in use continue to draw electricity. An LED/LCD television entertainment system with a cable box in stand-by mode can cost more than $400 per year to operate. These items should be unplugged or turned off through the use of a power strip when not actually being used.
Fish tanks can cost $700 per year to operate, and there are fans that can cost $360 per year to operate. A refrigerator or deep freezer in a garage space or on a lanai will cost more to operate than if it is installed inside the home because of the additional heat normally experienced in these locations. It is recommended that those appliances are brought indoors. Residents can become a “Know Load” through knowledge of their home’s plug load. After all, the money they save could be their own.
Another resident who has experienced the benefit of receiving assistance from the “Know Load” program is Allyson Oller. “I had been doing everything I knew to keep my cost down but, for some unknown reason, I wasn’t able to achieve my goal. The Navy ‘Know Load’ team conducted a review of my household plug load and checked my air conditioning and water heating equipment,” Oller said.
“During their visit, they identified things that I was not aware of and helped me initiate changes to correct what they found and informed me of other behavioral changes I could apply. I followed their suggestions and have had no bills since their visit.
“I continue to use my air conditioning when it is hot and use fans when it’s not so hot. We are still comfortable in our home and don’t owe any money because of the assistance from the ‘Know Load’ program,” she said.
Other residents who have received assistance from the “Know Load” program offered feedback about the results, such as:
“Thank you for the e-mail. All is well. We had a $54 electric bill this month, but that’s a whole lot better than $250.”
“I had no idea that a freezer in the garage uses more electricity than when it is in the house.”
“Thank you so much for talking me through my solar water heater. Knowing what I know now, I’m going to be running on full solar. I feel better knowing where my money is going, and I will start unplugging things that I’m not using.”
Housing residents who have questions or need assistance with their energy conservation efforts should contact their Forest City resident service office or the Navy “Know Load” representative at 474-1812.
For more information about energy conservation, visit the Navy Region Hawaii energy outreach page at http://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrh/om/energy.html