Residents get usage tips from GRU reps
Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 1:42 p.m.
East Gainesville residents received tips on how to lower household energy costs at a workshop with representatives from Gainesville Regional Utilities.
The workshop held last Wednesday night at the T.B. McPherson Recreation Center featured GRU representatives who empathized with residents concerned about rising electric bills, while also educating them on ways to take control of their electric bills.
In December, the contract price to buy power from the biomass plant pushed GRU's electric rates to the highest in the state for many residential and commercial users.
Close to 30 east Gainesville residents attended the meeting billed as a "GRU in the Neighborhood Take Control Workshop" and listened intently as Carlos Lamar, residential efficiency program coordinator at GRU, tried to educate them on how to save on their electric bills.
Nona Jones, public affairs director at GRU, said the meeting was held to empower customers and also provide them with information that will help save them money. She said although the same information presented at the meeting can be found on GRU's website and community bulletin, she said it is important as a community-owned utility company that GRU go into the community to make sure they are giving the information to as many residents as possible. She said the details for future workshops are still being discussed, adding that residents should not hesitate to contact GRU with their concerns.
"Please call us if you see problems with your bills," Jones said.
Lamar began his presentation by saying heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units, or HVACs, are the No. 1 source of energy costs in the home.
Lamar then explained that HVAC filters need to be changed monthly. He said filters should not be changed if a flashlight can shine through the filter.
"If that light can pass through it, air can pass through it," Lamar said. "If that light can't pass through it, then air can't pass through it, and that makes the unit have to work harder and more inefficient."
Besides changing HVAC filters, other energy-saving measures included:
* Setting the thermostat at 68 degrees or lower during the winter and 78 degrees or higher during the summer. Lamar said deviating from those settings can increase bills by up to 4 percent per degree. For example, a $100 electric bill during the winter will increase by $4 every degree the thermostat is set above 68. The bill could become $104 if the thermostat is set at 69 degrees, $108 if it is set at 70 degrees, etc.
* Turning the air-conditioner off or up when leaving home for two or more hours.
* Using ceiling fans to increase the comfort level and turning them off when not needed.
* Unplugging TVs, DVD players, chargers, coffee makers, etc., when not in use.
* Installing low-flow shower heads to achieve 25 percent to 60 percent in water savings.
* Planting a small tree or shrub to provide shade for air-condition units, which will contribute to using up to 10 percent less electricity.
* Making sure hot water heaters are heating water to between 120 and 130 degrees.
* Keeping refrigerator coils and ducts clean and making sure refrigerator seams are working properly.
Gainesville city Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls, whose District 1 seat represents most of east Gainesville, spoke briefly at the meeting. Hinson-Rawls said her electric bill increased because her kilowatt usage increased three times its normal usage, something she said has never happened before since she has lived in her house in Azalea Trails, known as Hollywood by many in east Gainesville, and located just south of Lincoln Middle School.
"My light bill went up, too, and I called and I am having an energy audit tomorrow," Hinson-Rawls said, adding that like her, residents need to find out what they can do to get their electric bills under control. "I want to know how my usage tripled."
Juanita Miles-Hamilton, a resident in the Duval neighborhood, said the meeting was worthwhile, but not enough to alleviate the fears residents have about rising electric bills.
"I think it was a very good meeting, but I think the concerns run even deeper for people because folks are in a position where it's very difficult for them to pay their bills. It's a hardship," Miles-Hamilton said. "We understand take control, but I think the city and GRU have to take control administratively because the citizens are doing all they can to try to reduce these bills, but yet, they are still high."
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