By Todd Thom, Navy Region Hawaii Housing Liaison
I serve as the advocate for residents living in Forest City’s Navy public-private venture (PPV) homes and engage daily with Forest City Residential Management and its residents to help make living in a Forest City home a positive experience.
The Navy’s Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) is part of living in a Navy PPV home and is crucial to long-term sustainability of the PPV program. Less electricity usage reduces costs to the project’s operating budget, allowing funds to be spent on other uses like additional services and future home replacement.
In December 2013, 33 percent of Forest City’s residents were above the buffer with the average payment being $129. Also, 32 percent of its residents were below the buffer with an average rebate of $135.
For the past four months, I have worked with Forest City to contact residents who have had the highest bills each month. Forest City’s property manager and I personally made hundreds of phone calls and conducted dozens of home inspections to aid residents in reducing their utility consumption. Through these outreach efforts, I have learned a lot and so have housing residents. I have reconfirmed my belief that some families are fully aware of their usage and are comfortable with their family lifestyle and energy consumption.
I have also engaged with a considerable number of residents who were unaware of preventable factors contributing to their high energy usage. Many have made adjustments after my visit and actually saw a decrease in their next monthly consumption (and often their bill). I want to share the knowledge that we have gained from these interactions.
The three most common factors are not surprises- they are at the top of every energy saver checklist: air conditioning, water heaters and plug load.
Air conditioning maintenance at the resident level is essential and two-fold. It can be significant in keeping costs down and in preventing mold from occurring in a home. We witnessed numerous air conditioning systems with dirty or clogged filters.
A clogged filter suffocates the system and makes it work harder if not constantly. To better track when your filter was last changed, write the date down on your calendar and the filter edge that faces the A/C filter door.
Change your filter monthly at a minimum, more frequently if you have pets that shed hair. Filters are available free of charge at the self help center located on Nimitz Road.
OSHA recommends 76 degrees for an office environment; a home’s rec- om-mended setting is 78 degrees. We noted that some residents have heat-generating items like televisions and entertainment systems placed near the A/C thermostat.This resulted in the A/C turning on when it wasn’t needed.
It also helps to keep cooling boundaries closed and use light-blocking curtains on your windows to minimize the sun’s heating effect in the home.
We found water heater timers with the incorrect time of day. A common cause of this is due to a previous power outage, so be sure to reset the timer any time you lose power. The result was that electricity was turning on at the wrong time to heat the water, such as during the day when the sun should be heating the water.
Some families, based on their lifestyle, can have hot water available solely from the sun without ever using “on” and “off” timer pins. Only on cloudy days would these residents need to manually turn on the water heater by flipping the timer level to the “on” position (just remember to flip it to the “off” position when you have enough hot water. Operating the water heater using “only solar” can reduce monthly consumption by as much as 20 percent.
Residents can also benefit from checking their air conditioner and hot water heater weekly. Keeping the space dry and free of water leaks prevents humidity that may create mold.
We met residents who were not aware of how much plug load they had. Some chose to re-evaluate whether their extra freezer, refrigerator or beverage cooler was really needed for the few items that were in them, compared to the cost to run them.
Some residents had multiple items plugged in when not in use that continued to draw electricity. These items should be unplugged or turned off through the use of a power strip. Forest
City makes available one free advanced-power strip per household, so be sure to go to your resident service office if you have not received yours.
We noted residents who liked to use air fresheners plugged into an outlet to heat oil or wax. The home smelled nice; however, many of the bulbs and elements in these fresheners can cost up to $11 a month to operate. This becomes significant when several of them are plugged into a home, operating 24/7. We met residents who used less electricity by utilizing a liquid scent with wicks that they inverted every few weeks.
These are just a few of our most common findings that could have a significant impact on electricity consumption. For more tips and information, visit: www.livewithin the buffer.com.
If there is a problem in your home or you would like assistance in how you can conserve energy in your home, contact a Forest City community manager for your location or me at 474-1804 for assistance.
Remember that conservation doesn’t have to be a hardship but does require good stewardship.