07/12/09 — Locals look to save on energy bills

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Locals look to save on energy bills

By Laura Collins
Published in News on July 12, 2009 12:25 AM

Ralph Johnson is convinced there's a ghost in his home.

Either that, or his wife is being "less than honest" about changing the thermostat when he's not looking.

"She says it's not her. All I know is the temperature on the thermostat is lower when I get home than when I left for work," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure it out."

Johnson, of Goldsboro, is attempting to conserve energy and lower his family's monthly bill this summer by setting the temperature in his house a little higher.

"If you weren't on the conserving energy kick before, this economy is making everyone look twice at what they're spending for water and electric," he said.

Debbie Hester, also of Goldsboro, said her family is working on lowering water costs but it's her kids she's having to keep an eye on.

"God forbid they get distracted while they have the water on. They'll just walk away," she said. "More than once I've walked by the bathroom and had to ask, 'who's supposed to be brushing their teeth right now?'"

While "going green" may seem to be sweeping the nation, Hester and Johnson don't seem to be the majority in the area.

"As for energy consumption, we have not seen a significant change so far this year by our residential customers," said Jeff Brooks, Progress Energy spokesperson.

Brooks added that over the past few years energy use in the area has been on the rise. One possible source for that could be increased use of plasma televisions. Brooks said plasmas account for about one-twelfth of a household's energy use over the course of a year.

"In a lot of cases we have seen energy use increase because people are using more television. They're staying inside and watching TV more than going outside," he said.

In most homes, air conditioners, refrigerators and TVs use the most energy. Regularly changing an air conditioner's filters will help reduce electric usage. Brooks also said buying a new, energy efficient refrigerator, rather than using one that is 9 or 10 years old, could also save money in the long run.

"There are many things that Progress Energy is doing to manage energy demand across our service area, but energy efficiency and conservation also require changes in lifestyle to be truly effective," he said. "The challenge is engaging the larger public to participate as well. It takes many different efforts, working together, to make a difference."

One area there is a decrease in energy use is the industrial sector because more businesses are moving out of the area or closing all together, Brooks said.

Concerning water consumption, Karen Brashear, the city's utilities director, said people are using about 5 percent more water as of May this year when compared to May last year.

Brashear said it's likely usage is up because there has not been mandatory water conservation this year.