Ask Eartha: Conserve energy starting at home |

Ask Eartha: Conserve energy starting at home

A plumber is performing maintenance on a residential water heater
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Dear Eartha,

I read an article recently about the Partners in Energy program. Can you tell me more about it? What are some actions that I can take as an individual to contribute to the success of the initiative?

Mary, Frisco

Thanks for asking, Mary! I’m excited to share more information with you because achieving our energy-use reduction goals will truly be a community effort, and Summit County citizens have an important role to play.

The goal of Partners in Energy is to help communities develop and implement energy action plans. Working in partnership with Xcel Energy, the High Country Conservation Center assembled stakeholders from Summit County organizations, towns, businesses and institutions. This group met regularly for several months last year to craft an Energy Action Plan for Summit County. The vision is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and conservation and increase energy production from renewable resources. The plan provides guidance for achieving these larger goals by identifying our community’s baseline energy usage, setting short-terms goals for energy use county-wide and defining strategies for achieving those goals within a two-year period.

What are the short-term goals? With data from Xcel Energy, the stakeholder group was able to determine the average rate of energy savings residents and businesses realize through participating in existing energy conservation programs as well as commercial and residential efficiency programs offered by Xcel Energy. The stakeholder group determined that a realistic goal moving forward would be to triple the current rate of community-wide energy savings by the end of 2017. Saving energy goes hand-in-hand with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so the plan’s second goal is to achieve a 15-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2020.

How can you help? Here in Summit County, residential natural gas and electricity usage account for 45 percent of our overall energy use. That means we residents — whether you live here full-time or part-time, rent or own — can all be active participants in the efforts to decrease our county’s energy consumption. Here are a few strategies you can implement to improve your energy efficiency at home. As an added bonus, you’ll likely enjoy savings on your monthly energy bill.

Get an energy audit. An energy audit is a great way to identify energy inefficiencies in your home. During an energy audit, the auditor will talk to you about your energy concerns for your home, and through a series of tests and observations, will let you know which energy-related retrofits are the most practical and cost-effective for you.

Complete an energy retrofit. The second step of an energy audit is to adopt the suggestions provided by the auditor. These upgrades do more than just help you save energy — they’ll make your home more comfortable and can also increase the value of your property. Not only that, but certain energy retrofits will improve the air quality in your home, which creates a healthier living environment for you and your family. Xcel Energy offers rebates for several residential energy upgrades, and so does the High Country Conservation Center, so take advantage of the free money and invest in a more efficient home.

Go after the easy fixes. Some of the recommendations that an energy auditor makes will be no or low-cost measures that you can implement yourself. For example, if your hot water heater is currently set above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll save energy by simply turning back the temperature. Doing so will also slow mineral buildup and corrosion in your pipes. You can find directions for changing the temperature of your hot water heater on the U.S. Energy Department’s website.

Practice efficiency every day. Energy efficiency depends not only on the systems within your home, but also your own habits. You might have a very efficient home structurally and mechanically speaking, but if you leave the lights on all the time, you’re squandering all of that inherent efficiency. Remember to make habit of energy conservation practices such as using programmable thermostats, turning lights off in empty rooms, only running dishwashers or washing machines when full, washing laundry in cold water, and unplugging phone chargers, toasters and coffee makers when not in use. When it’s time to buy new appliances or electronics, purchase models made with energy efficiency in mind. Keep in mind that Xcel Energy offers rebates for qualifying refrigerators, water heaters and natural gas furnaces.

Thanks for doing your part, Mary, and give us a shout at the High Country Conservation Center if you’re interested in an energy audit or you’d like more guidance on improving the efficiency of your home.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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