COLUMBIA — With his knowledge about the art of conservation, David Mars simply wants to help save Columbia's residents money. As the star of the Columbia Channel's "Conservation Tips," Mars teaches residents not only how to cut down on energy usage, but also cut down on their energy expenses.
"That's what our goal at ‘Conservation Tips' is — to help our community conserve and for you to save money on your utility bills," Mars signs off on his August tip.
Depending on the day, "Conservation Tips" airs several times a day on the Columbia Channel at the end of the City Hour. Featuring David Mars as the "Energy Guy," the five-minute spots can be watched at gocolumbiamo.com/TCC.
Cutting down on your AC — During the summer, cut down on your air-conditioning bill by raising your thermostat when you are gone, seal your windows and put down the blinds to prevent heat from entering your home and clean your air conditioner's furnace system to prevent it from overworking.
Air infiltration — Apply caulk to window frames and cracks on the side of your home to prevent wind from seeping in during the winter, causing your heater to work harder and increasing your energy bills.
Lower water bills — Leaky toilets are a main culprit of high water bills. Making sure your toilet stopper has not deteriorated and can prevent water from draining out and constantly needing to be filled up. Old handles can also cause the stopper to allow water to drain out of the back of the toilet.
Efficient refrigerators — Maintaining a temperature of 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in your refrigerator keeps your food fresh while not burning too much energy. Make sure the doors are properly sealed and no items obstruct airflow around the refrigerator, because warm air is expelled from the refrigerator and cold air is drawn in.
Shade trees — Planting deciduous trees on the southwest and southeast corners of your home shade your home from the sun in the summer, lowering your air-conditioning costs. When the trees shed in the fall and winter, sunlight can pass through them and add more heat to your home.
Columbia's "Energy Guy" gives straightforward explanations of topics such as how reflective window film can cut the cost of air conditioning and the importance of good insulation, all in five minutes or less.
Although Mars doesn't seek it, fame has a way of occasionally ferreting him out.
"A man on the street may ask me if I'm the ‘Energy Guy', and sometimes they say they've learned a lot," Mars said. "We have a fairly intelligent population in town; all they really want is a strategy they could see as beneficial."
Mars has worked at Columbia Water and Light for the past 21 years. In his position as energy management specialist, he helps people deal with their high energy bills. "Conservation Tips" is part of that job, but Mars jokingly reasons he was chosen to be the star of the videos because he is "so photogenic."
Not one to take himself too seriously, Mars does not get flustered by bloopers or retakes; he's quick to laugh at himself or banter with the camera crew.
"I always feel like a chef at this table, cooking up some energy stew," Mars joked while standing behind a work table in the basement of the Napa Auto Parts building where he filmed the October installment.
Connie Kacprowicz, public information specialist for Columbia Water and Light and producer of "Conservation Tips," accompanies Mars on his shoots to make sure they remain timely and to the point. Kacprowicz is Mars' on-site editor, stopping him when he makes a mistake or adding suggestions.
"You don't need to say that," Kacprowicz instructed Mars during the recent shoot, making sure he is not too wordy in his delivery. "You pretty much have it, but do one more (take)."
Kacprowicz, who has worked with Mars since the show began in 2000, applauds his ability to interact with the camera while simultaneously demonstrating a concept.
"People don't realize how hard it is to talk on camera and show the demonstrations," Kacprowicz said. "I think that he does a fantastic job."
Before joining Water and Light in 1987, Mars worked in the private sector for five years, doing conservation work around town. Former President Jimmy Carter's policies on conservation had piqued his interest in the field.
"There was a lot of emphasis on conservation at the time," Mars said.
Originally from Brentwood, a St. Louis suburb, Mars attended MU in 1964 with interests in art and architecture. After graduating in 1968, he spent time in California.
"It was kind of an awakening," Mars said. "I found other ways to learn about art; I got away from art and was now into music."
His experience in California inspired him to return to Columbia and try to set up a coffee shop that sold organic food and coffee while providing live music on the weekends. Mars said there was not much of an art scene in Columbia at the time, and he wanted to bring appreciation for art to the city.
Although he has since shifted his career goals, Mars' architectural interests are still expressed in the work he has done on his own home; he has a sun room, a solar oven and a spiral concentrator that burns vapor.
"The sun room accounts for 30 percent of our heat in the winter," Mars said. "We heat it with wood, a renewable source. It's pretty well-insulated."
Mars plans to continue to produce more of his "Conservation Tips" for the community and possibly become more involved with green building in the community. Having logged almost 100 segments, he does have a favorite tip: how to build an insulation barrier for your whole house.
"I run into about a dozen people who were able to make one on their own," he said.
That dovetails with his greater pleasure of "just trying to demystify things people think are hard to do on their own."