By Karen S. Spangler, Managing Editor, Ho`okele
In its ongoing efforts to help Forest City housing residents manage and reduce their electricity consumption, Navy Region Hawaii and Forest City organized a “Know Load” process in September 2013.
The strategy is simple: If residents know the electricity load their home is carrying each month, it can help them to reduce their monthly electricity consumption.
In March, Navy Region Hawaii announced that the electricity rate charged to residents in privatized housing would decrease, effective April 1, from 58.7 cents per kilowatt-hour to 41.8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The announcement highlighted the Navy’s effort to mitigate the impact of a high electricity rate on military families and also encouraged residents to continue using utilities wisely.
According to Darryl Nii, Navy Region Hawaii Resident Energy Conservation Program (RECP) coordinator, the average payment for April was $84, compared to $118 in March.
The average amount of electricity used per home in April was 1,057 kWh (kilowatt per hour), compared to 1,2014 kWh a year ago (April 2013) and 1,409 kWh in April 2010—prior to RECP implementation.
“RECP’s objective is to conserve energy by transferring responsibility for utility consumption to housing residents, and it’s definitely being achieved at Navy Region Hawaii,” Nii noted.
The first step in the “Know Load” process encourages residents to contact their Forest City resident services office to schedule a phone assessment. During the phone assessment, residents can address questions or concerns about RECP and discuss why they believe their usage is higher than it should be.
If the phone assessment doesn’t resolve all questions or concerns, Forest City will schedule a home assessment. Forest City’s energy team will visit the home to address reasons for excess energy consumption, including resident energy habits, as well as efficiency of the central air conditioning and solar water heater systems.
The region housing office also conducts outreach to residents who have the highest electricity bills each month and offers a phone assessment and subsequent home assessment, if necessary. This proactive effort uses the same checklists as Forest City’s assessments. Whenever home deficiencies are found, Forest City will also complete those existing work orders.
One of the residents who saw some benefit from the “Know Load” program was Cori Shields and her family. Shields, whose husband is active duty Navy, and three children live in a four-bedroom home in the Halsey Terrace neighborhood.
“They came in and did an energy audit. It was a big help and our bill did come down. That was really beneficial,” Shields explained.
She offered some additional tips that has helped her family reduce their electricity bill. “We have everything set to run in the morning and at night. We also try to use more electricity during the day when the solar is kicking in,” she said.
Shields recommended setting the hot water heater for hours when residents are at home and for whatever suits their family. Another strategy her family uses is to set a higher temperature for the air conditioner when they are not at home.
Forest City is also engaged in a pilot program with a private energy-savings company that, if successful, could offer smart phone app technology to residents to give them immediate information on where electricity is being used.
The Navy Region Hawaii energy team will use other new technology where possible, too. The Energy Detective (TED) connects to a home’s electricity breaker panel and can provide instant electrical data in both dollar and kilowatt per hour amounts. This technology helps residents to determine how to lower their electric bills.
Information regarding TED is at: https://www.theenergydetective.com/downloads/HowTEDproWorks.pdf. Although these resources are limited, this initiative could be helpful when questions remain after the previous assessments.
Other initiatives are underway to communicate the Navy’s interest in helping residents. The region’s monthly energy conservation board meetings will invite residents to offer their suggestions on how to improve RECP and the energy conservation program.