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Efficiency Ideas That Drew A Crowd

People walking in from the parking lot joined a line that already snaked out the door and filled the Farm Bureau Community Building at the Meade County Fairgrounds this fall for the first-ever Meade County Rural Electric Cooperative Home Energy Expo.

The turnout of about 700 surprised and pleased organizers, who held the pilot program to let co-op members know about ways to reduce their utility bills by making the best use of their electricity.

“People are starved for information about energy efficiency,” says Burns Mercer, president and CEO of the Meade County co-op based in Brandenburg. “This turned out to be a great way to reach people and get the point across about efficient heat, light bulbs, and other cost-effective ways to use energy.”

Those attending received two free compact fluorescent light bulbs and caulk to use in home weatherization. They strolled past displays picking up leaflets about heating and cooling, home sealing, and new home construction. They listened to expert presentations on windows and doors, insulation, and improving energy efficiency in manufactured homes.

Tips from the expo included:

• Redo windows. Bryan Cannon, advertising manager with Sun Windows in Owensboro, says windows and doors are the points of weakest insulation along walls. Adding storm windows to a home’s exterior as an insulating buffer and applying weatherstripping can help seal air leaks, he says. Newer replacement windows contain features like specially coated low-emissivity glass, which helps block UV light and reflects heat back into a home. Though not new, low-E glass has been improved over time for maximum efficiency.

• Add insulation. According to expo brochures, adding extra insulation to a home reduces utility bills year-round and makes indoor temperatures more comfortable. Signs that there are air leaks or insufficient attic insulation include drafty windows and doors, cold walls or ceilings, and ice buildup on the roof.

• Switch bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, are the “biggest, greatest opportunity across the board” for home energy conservation, says Gerald Hash, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service housing associate. They’re relatively cheap, and each ENERGY STAR-qualified 25-watt CFL bulb replacing a 75-watt incandescent bulb saves $25 in energy costs over its 8,000-hour life.

• Re-cover outlets. The eight-county Central Kentucky Community Action organization, which, like others statewide, provides a range of services including adult daycare and childcare, also offers home weatherization. Weatherization Director Julie Shuck says it’s often recommended that homeowners install special foam-based electrical outlet and light switch covers that prevent air leakage common around these areas.

• Seal ducts. Leaky ducts in a manufactured home can waste more than 20 percent of a home’s energy. Before 2000, manufactured homes’ ducts were sealed with foil tape, which can deteriorate over time, says Tom Rehrig, general manager of Clayton Manufacturing Plant in Hodgenville. It can be replaced on your own or professionally with more durable mastic tape available at home improvement stores, he says.

• Tune up tools. Utility savings can be created in a home workshop, according to expo materials, by using hand tools instead of power tools, keeping tools sharpened and lubricated to reduce usage time, and buying power tools with only the horsepower needed to do the job.

• Be kitchen efficient. Energy savings can also be realized with some simple kitchen practices. Use smaller appliances to cook small meals. Only preheat the oven for short baking jobs. Use the oven more in colder months.

Meade County Co-op Vice President of Member Services and Marketing Tim Gossett says plans are already under way for next year’s expo.

“We like to think that we’re recognized as one of the authorities on helping people find ways to reduce their electricity consumption,” he says.

For information on prize winners at the expo and the businesses that donated those prizes, visit the Meade County Co-op Web site at www.mcrecc.coop.

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