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Workshops show saving energy needn't be painful

PLATTSBURGH Small changes can lead to big savings. Thats the message Amy Ivy, executive director/Extension educator of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County, hopes participants in the Save Energy, Save Dollars workshops will take home. The free workshops are designed to help people use less energy and save on their energy bills. We all need to figure out ways to save energy, both to help our pocket books and for the bigger picture, Mrs. Ivy explained. The workshops, which are part of the EmPower New York Program funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, focus on low-cost and no-cost fixes. Were not talking about installing a whole new furnace, Mrs. Ivy stressed. Were talking about how you can make what you have work for you. The average New York household spends 42 percent of its home energy dollars on heating and air conditioning. Since thats the biggest chunk of energy dollars spent, thats also where homeowners can see the biggest changes. But, people dont need to suffer to save energy. For example, just setting the thermostat one degree lower, a change barely noticeable to most, can save three percent on heating costs. Even better, lower the thermostat by 10 degrees when youre out of the house or sleeping and you can save nearly six percent. Lots of people have the idea that its wasteful to change the thermostat, that you should set it and leave it, Mrs. Ivy said. Not true! Although it is commonly believed it takes more energy to reheat a cold room than to keep a room at a constant temperature 24 hours a day, research has shown this to be inaccurate. Another big waster of heating energy is air leakage those pesky drafts. In fact, drafts can account for up to 40 percent of the cost of heating a typical home, and those who live in the old farmhouses so prevalent in the North Country are particularly vulnerable. Drafts, however, can be blocked through a variety of means, including putting rope caulk along windows during winter months, adding weather stripping on doors, and installing inexpensive foam gaskets on outer wall outlets and light switches. All these little things add up, Mrs. Ivy explained, adding even moving beds and couches away from windows, where colder air tends to pool, can make a difference. As far as appliances go, refrigerators are the biggest consumers of energy, especially those made before 1995. In that case, people may find it does make sense to invest in a more energy-efficient Energy Star model. Plus, many towns also offer incentives or rebates for switching to an Energy Star refrigerator. In fact, there are many programs designed to assist everyone from businesses and farms, to homeowners and renters make more energy efficient choices. Mrs. Ivy encourages everyone to check into the available programs, regardless of income, to find out what may be available to them. People may be familiar with Cooperative Extension through their agriculture, nutrition or Master Gardener programs, but Mrs. Ivy believes the organization is also in a unique position to respond to current needs and issues. Plus, they have all the resources Cornell has to offer to back them up. So far, the workshops, which have been offered for the last two years, have been a big hit with attendees. With time for comments and discussion, everyone even seasoned pros can learn something they didnt know before. Participants also receive a free goodie bag of energy saving items so they can put what they learned into use right away. The free Save Energy, Save Dollars workshops are available throughout the county. Upcoming sessions include Schulyer Falls Town Hall, Morrisonville, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 6-8 p.m.; Dodge Library, West Chazy, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 6-8 p.m.; Ausable Town Hall, Keeseville, Thursday, Jan. 31, 6-8 p.m.; the Cooperative Extension Office in Plattsburgh, Monday, Feb. 4, 1-3 p.m., and Thursday, Feb. 14, 6-8 p.m.; Saranac Town Hall, Saranac, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 1-3 p.m.; and Champlain Town Hall, Champlain, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 6-8 p.m. Registration for workshops may be arranged by calling Cornell Cooperative Extension at 561-7450. For more information about the range of programs offered by New York Energy $martSM, call 1-877-NYSMART or visit www.getenergysmart.org .

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