Feb 252009

With an ever-tightening economy and energy costs on the rise, Fort Collins energy expert Doug Swartz showed students and residents at the Drake Centre Wednesday night how to reduce their carbon footprint while lowering their electric bill and saving money.

Swartz, an energy services engineer for Fort Collins Utilities, presented “Your Electric Bill: Take Control,” sharing energy efficiency tips to help lower electric bills ranging from unplugging appliances to using natural light.

“You’re not going to find too many individual big opportunities, but you can find a lot of small opportunities that together can have a big effect,” Swartz said. “The first thing (in reducing electricity costs) is to become aware of what uses electricity in your house or apartment.”

Phantom loads, which maintain electronic devices in a partially-on mode when switched off, can be responsible for 5 to 10 percent of energy usage.

Swartz recommended plugging devices into a power cord so that when appliances are not in use, they can easily be turned off.

“Whether you want to (turn off appliances or not) depends on the convenience of having your appliance ready at your command or if you’re willing to wait an extra couple seconds to turn the power cord on,” he said.

“Part of the point is that most of these electric usages on their own aren’t very big, but they all add up. And you can do something about them.”

Lauren Hall, a sophomore recreation and tourism major, said she’s experienced the benefits of being conservation conscious.

“I turn off the lights when I leave a room, and I try to unplug appliances that I don’t use as often,” Hall said. “I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but it probably helps.”

Swartz stressed the importance of turning off appliances like computers to save money.

“The most important thing is to turn it off when you’re not using it,” Swartz said. “And if you forget, every computer has power managing software built in. You can change the settings so that after a set time of inactivity the computer will turn off.”

Swartz said space heaters, as well as using natural lighting, shutting off lights when possible and switching to florescent bulbs, can cut back on costs.

“Florescent lights are good for students. They have very quick paybacks,” Swartz said, adding that compact florescent light bulbs cost between $1 to $2 a piece and reduce costs by 75 percent.

State Representative John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said he leads by example in using energy efficiency.

“At the Capitol building, we put in energy efficient light bulbs, saving taxpayers $18,000,” Kefalas said. “The citizens, the cities and Colorado State University pride themselves on becoming green.”

Josh Lang, a sophomore chemical engineering major, said he and his roommates cut their electric bill in half using similar techniques after experiencing a hike in their statement.

“I’m more (energy conscious) now then ever,” Lang said. “We duct-taped our thermostat at 65 degrees, we turn off the lights and unplug the hot tub unless it’s the weekend. We also put towels in the base of our windows to prevent air from getting in and out. It’s made a great difference.”

The Fort Collins Utilities Web site offers many tips for residents. To learn more about which appliances are wasting electricity, visit http://fcgov.com/utilities or call (970) 212-2900.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Mayoral candidates: How energy

efficient is Fort Collins?

Doug Hutchinson — “Fort Collins is becoming a true global impact center on renewable energy with our clean energy cluster. .We are truly becoming leaders in this area.”

Tom Griggs — “The City of Fort Collins and Fort Collins Utilities have been very proactive when it comes to encouraging citizens to be energy efficient, informing them and even providing incentives for efficiency measures, but we could always do more. When it comes to renewable energy, unfortunately Fort Collins and the Platte River Power Authority have a long way to go in terms of implementing clean, renewable energy.”

Eric Sutherland — “We can do much, much better. Our advantages are just short of supernatural with our municipally owned power supply.”

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