Energy seminar highlights conservation efforts

WOODBRIDGE - Energy conservation needs to come from both a public and a private ground swell. While public officials are focusing on what the government can do, individuals can participate, as well. In an effort to maximize the town's energy conservation, the Woodbridge Clean Energy Initiative, a group of Woodbridge volunteers, was formed. The WCEI was charged with examining ways for both the municipality and its residents to conserve energy. As part of its function, the WCEI has scheduled monthly seminars to cover conservation topics. On Dec. 20, the group held its second monthly event to explore how consumers could reduce their energy consumption, as well as save money.

Jonathan Gorham, chairman of WCEI, presented the seminar, titled "How to Save $1,000 on Your Energy Bills." According to Gorham, the two main demands on energy consumption by consumers are their home and their car. Each of these components accounts for approximately 50 percent of the individual's energy demands.

"As a home and car owner, I'm interested in anything I can do on the conservation side," said Gorham.

Gorham outlined actions that could be initiated by each consumer that he categorized as no cost options, low cost options and good investments.

In addressing conservation efforts for the home owner, Gorham said, "Think of your house as a leaking bucket. Sealing up your house will give you the biggest bang for your buck."

No cost options

* Turn off lights

* Set back water heater to 120 degrees

* Apply door sweeps, door snakes or draft dodgers (blocking devices that reduce heat loss at the bottom ENERGYtside doors).

* Tightly close fireplace dampers

* Pull shades or drapes to reduce heat loss at night/ in summertime during day

* Shower instead of bathe

* Use microwave ovens when possible

* Turn off TV and VCR with power surge to disconnect it from outlet (even when TV is turned to off setting, it will continue to draw a little power if not disconnected from outlet)

* Set water temperature on clothes washer to cold/cold

* Use clothes line to dry clothes

Put computers to sleep

Low cost options

Simple, low cost options could help homeowners save money and energy. Gorham said, "I can't over-emphasize how important it is to tighten up your house."

* Caulk windows that may leak heat

* Secure adequate sealing and insulation for duct work and fans

* Insulate areas where there may be heat loss, such as electrical outlets

There are products on the market, for example, to insulate electrical outlets. Replace insulation in attic and other areas

* Use low flow shower heads

* Use compact fluorescent bulbs

* Sign up for renewable energy

Good investments

* Energy audits - have an expert assess the home for its energy efficiency

* Insulation

* Use an efficient dish washer

* Use an efficient dryer

* Invest in a programmable thermostat - which can save up to $1,500 over 10 years.

According to Gorham, automobiles and light trucks account for 60 percent of the nation's transportation energy consumption. He also offered automotive tips.

No cost options

* Inflate tires properly

* Drive sensibly

* Driving above the speed limit reduces fuel efficiency

* Clean air filters

* Use appropriate motor oil

* Remove roof rack

* Use cruise control

* Avoid idling

* Don't' warm up car excessively

Low cost options

* Car pool

* Plan multiple-errand trips

* Ride bikes when possible

* Use mass transit

Good Investments

Buy a more energy-efficient automobile

Of note, choosing renewable energy sources, such as wind power, through the utility company can benefit both the individual and the town. The state has supported an effort to reward communities that demonstrate a commitment to conservation. Through a program organized by Smart Power, towns can obtain photovoltaic systems for municipal use to defray energy consumption and costs. The solar power systems are provided for free if at least 100 residents sign up for energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources. Gorham said, "Every time we sign up 100, we get a photovoltaic complex worth $25,000."

At present, Woodbridge has about 114 residents who have subscribed to renewable energy sources. Although the cost for renewable energy is slightly higher, those increases can be controlled through simple measures, such as using fluorescent bulbs.

Gorham said that measures to conserve energy were in place throughout the world, adding, "It's happening all over the world. It's not happening here."

"It will only happen when we, as consumers, advocate for it," said Gorham.

For more information, contact the WCEI through town hall at 389-3401 or at