Energy Forum offers tips to East Hartford residents

March 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

The energy-efficiency expert panel at the East Hartford Energy Forum: (l-r) Elin Katz from the State of Connecticut Consumer Counsel, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, state Rep. Henry Genga, Peggy Diaz from the Bureau of Energy and Policy DEEP, Craig Clark from CLP, Christopher Ehlert from Connecticut Natural Gas, Madeline Priest from CEFIA and Ginger Teubner from DEEP. Photos by Erin Connolly.

State Rep. Henry Genga (D-10) led a panel of energy-efficiency experts in East Hartford’s Town Hall on March 6 to help inform the public about energy options that could save them money.

The panel included Peggy Diaz from the Bureau of Energy and Policy DEEP, Craig Clark of Connecticut Light and Power, Madeline Priest of Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, Christopher Ehlert from Connecticut Natural Gas, Elin Katz from the State of Connecticut Consumer Counsel, and East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc, among others.

The forum covered topics like the income-eligible option for homeowners, the Smart–E loan for prospective solar panel users, and tips about how to switch to natural gas. It also warned homeowners to be skeptical about calls from independent electric companies.

Clark, from CLP, explained that homeowners who are in the 60-percent income median qualify for a free income-eligible energy-efficiency service. This option sends trained professionals to come inspect the home for ways to reduce the energy bill. This could include installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, sealing drafts coming from windows or doors into the house, or installing showerheads that save water.

“Purchasing energy-efficiency costs less than purchasing energy,” Clark said. “That’s why we do it… Every dollar we put in saving energy is better than buying energy and burning energy to make electricity, so it’s also good for the environment.”

For residents interested in using solar energy for their home, Priest from CEFIA suggested a long-term, low-interest Smart-E loan to help pay for the panels. She used the example of how solar energy helped a young family of three save almost $2,000 a year by installing panels.

East Hartford residents Bill and Brigitte Berner put a solar panel on their roof in October and came to the forum to learn the latest updates on clean energy. They said the forum provided good information that they plan to share with their family members.

“I’ve been looking at [solar panels] over the years and it was always an intriguing idea,” Brigitte said. “With the state rebates and tax incentives that they have, it was reasonable enough for us to say, ‘Hey, let’s go for it.’”

Elhert, from Connecticut Natural Gas, told the public about the benefits of switching to natural gas. “Natural gas is 40 percent less than home heating oil,” he said. “So if you’re paying about $3.90 for home heating oil… the equivalent of that is $2.10 for natural gas.”

If a resident is interested in switching to gas, Elhert suggests contacting Connecticut Natural Gas directly to be matched with an energy specialist. Then he said to get three quotes to compare before making the purchase.

“Energy is not something easy that folks know what to do in their households,” he said. “It’s intimidating. It’s alphabet soup… but I think with forums like this it allows constituents and customers to come out and learn about programs.”

East Hartford resident Frances Wishart heard about the panel from Leclerc and thought the forum provided helpful information. “I get constant calls about switching [electric energy providers] and I didn’t understand what they were talking about until I came tonight,” she said.

Katz, from the State of Connecticut Consumer Counsel, said they’ve received a spike in complaints from constituents about calls from independent electric companies. She advised people to avoid giving out bill information over the phone or in person.

“Read your bill, know what your rate is and be careful about a variable rate,” Katz said. “Know that you have rights and there are places to go and people to ask if you need help figuring it out.”

For more information on these options to save money on energy, go to EnergizeCT.org or call Connecticut’s toll-free energy information line, 1-877-WISE-USE (947-3873).

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