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GUC helps senior beat the heat

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Friday, June 14, 2019

Greenville Utilities Commission offered senior citizens energy savings tips at a forum on Thursday and donated 100 fans to help them keep cool.

The forum was held at the Pitt County Council on Aging. The donations took place at both the Council on Aging and the Department of Social Services on Thursday morning.

Energy specialist Johnathan Sergeant offered several suggestions to help keep summer cooling bills down while also highlighting the importance of maintaining HVAC systems and having professionals inspect them on a regular basis.

Two of the biggest factors driving a utility bill, according to Sergeant, are hot water heaters and thermostats.

“If you’re putting your hand under the sink and it’s scalding, you’ve got opportunities for savings,” Sergeant said.

Hot water heaters should be set to 120 degrees and placed in an area where they have little contact with the elements, according to Sergeant. Thermostats should be set to the highest comfortable setting.

Sergeant recommends adjusting the thermostat to 78 degrees on the cool setting and when you’re not home, bumping it up to 80.

“Heating that water alone equates to 18-20 percent of our utility costs and the thermostat on the wall is around 35 to 40 percent,” Sergeant said. “Those two components alone are the majority of your utility bill.”

Getting ducts in a row

Homes should be checked for leaks in the ductwork and ductwork should be cleaned and sealed off, Sergeant said.

When ductwork is not maintained, in addition to having higher utility bills dust, mold and other contaminants can affect the air quality in the home and pose health risks, he said.

Routine maintenance on a home’s cooling system also is important.

“Maintenance is key,” Sergeant said. “Even that window unit needs maintaining because there is an intake and a filter and that needs cleaning. People should change their filters and replace them regularly to prevent obstructions to the HVAC systems.”

Not changing the filters can cause the unit to be overworked which causes damage to the system, he said. That results in the consumer using more energy than they should, resulting in higher utility bills.

Filters should be replaced every 30 days, Sergeant said.

Other factors inside the home include managing crawl spaces and checking for moisture build-up, he said.

Another issue is drainage on the outside of the home.

“We’re in a moist natural environment in eastern North Carolina,” Sergeant said. “Our No. 1 defense is getting that moisture away from the house. We have to look at the drainage around the house.”

Proper drainage can include landscaped flower beds and plants that help soak up the water.

And while gutters may not equal curb appeal, Sergeant said they are very important.

“Most homes around here, unfortunately, do not have gutters,” he said. “We highly recommend gutters, because when water comes off that roof, it sheds it into that downspout and gets it away from the house. You always want to address what we call bulk water. That’s the outside water.”

Brenda Diggs of Greenville said Sergeant’s forum was helpful.

“I think it’s extremely important for consumers to be educated,” Diggs said. “Since we have moved back here, I have learned a lot about things that you should ask even your real estate agent or have someone come in yourself because it can cost you a lot of money.”

To help seniors save money and also keep cool, GUC donated 100 fans — 50 each to the Pitt County Council on Aging and the Department of Social Services — early on Thursday morning.

The utility has been doing so for 25 years and it’s something that Scott Mullis, who is the director of customer relations said GUC is happy to do.

“A lot of times it’s the small things in life that make somebody’s day,” Mullis said. “You don’t know what kind of situations they’ve got going on in their lives. Something small like a fan can make a difference in their day.”

The utility company said the fans will be distributed to the elderly, handicapped and qualifying families with small children.

“The heat and humidity of eastern North Carolina summers can create a real hardship for many families who suffer because of lack of air conditioning or fans,” CEO/General Manager, Tony Cannon, said. “Fans are an economical way to get some relief from the heat, and we are pleased to provide them as a gesture of community support.”

Free energy audits

GUC offers free energy surveys for residential and light commercial structures. One of their energy specialists will make a comprehensive on-site evaluation, checking for insulation, air sealing, heating and cooling systems, moisture-related issues, air quality, ducts, and other energy-related items.

After the analysis, the specialist will suggest measures to reduce energy usage. A written follow-up report will help homeowners make informed decisions on energy improvements.

To schedule an appointment, call 551-1521 or visit guc.com/energy-services.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566. Follow him on Twitter @Tylerstocks1987.

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