City asks residents to reduce energy use

The city’s Web site lists ways to conserve energy during peak hours.
Thursday, August 9, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
J.C. Morris, one of the owners of Tiger Appliance Heating & Cooling, cleans a neglected air conditioning unit at a rental home in southern Columbia. “A standard AC unit is only ton-sized for 95 degrees, so after that they just can’t keep up,” he said.

COLUMBIA - Energy consumption is on the rise along with the temperature, and Columbia’s Water and Light department is asking residents to turn down the air conditioning, among other things.

“Unless the weather drastically changes, a peak warning has been issued for Thursday from noon to 7 p.m.,” said Connie Kacprowicz, spokesperson for Columbia Water and Light. “We ask people to voluntarily conserve energy and follow the conservation tips we’ve offered.”

Keep the bill down

As the AC runs, follow these tips to keep bills low: • Upgrade an older air conditioning unit for a modern, more efficient one. • Add insulation to your home, which will help with the winter cold, too. • If you have an older system, hire a heating and cooling contractor to tune up your system. On a budget? Here are some lifestyle changes: • Set your thermostat to no less than 78 degrees and turn it up to 82 degrees when you leave your house. • Change your air filter on your unit at least four times a year. • Close the shades on windows in direct sunlight. • Delay the use of any heat-producing appliances, such as dishwashers, until late in the evening. • Try to prepare cold meals or use the microwave or outdoor grill. • Don’t block air vents with furniture or rugs. • Remove dust from appliances regularly. • Keep your air conditioning unit clean.

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Peak warnings are issued when residents of Columbia use more energy than predicted. The city estimates how much energy to buy every month, and buying early keeps the city from paying a higher price. That in turn keeps residents from paying increased utility rates.

“When we go past our forecasted amount and have to buy energy at the last minute to cover our loads, it can be three to four times as expensive,” Kacprowicz said. That makes energy more expensive for both the city and its customers.

The forecasted peak load for this week is 270 megawatts a day. Tuesday’s actual peak load was 262 megawatts at 5 p.m. During consecutive days of high temperatures, energy consumption gradually creeps up. Last year, August had the highest energy consumption, followed by July and September.

Columbia Water and Light has energy conservation tips available on its Web site, and it encourages people to try to follow them. But today it will do even more to get the word out and raise awareness. They have placed advertisements on radio and TV in hopes that people will pay more attention to the problem.

Exchange your air conditioner:

It’s time to get rid of that old air conditioning unit and get a new one for free.

Central Missouri Community Actions has teamed up with the City of Columbia for a second summer of the window air conditioning exchange program for lower income residents.

Columbia residents who qualify for the exchange program can bring their old window units in and exchange them for a new, Energy Star efficient window unit.

“Last year we gave out about 50. This year we had 96 total since June 1,” said Liz Popovich, communications and development coordinator for CMCA. “Currently we have about 29 left.”

To be eligible for the program, residents must be City of Columbia utility customers, they must have their old unit present and they must have an annual income that is less than 150 percent of the poverty level.

Old units that are collected will then be recycled by the city.

“It’s twofold. It keeps the (older) units out of homes, and it gets recycled properly,” Popovich said. “A lot of people who use the older units, their utility bills are higher.”

That’s because older units use a lot more energy than a modern unit.

Individuals who are 65 or older and those who have children under the age of five will be given priority.

Where to go to exchange your air conditioner: Boone County Family Resource Center, 400 Wilkes Blvd. Columbia, MO 65201. For more information, contact Adam Titon 573-443-8731 ext. 201

You can also donate a working unit in decent condition, which will help prepare for next year’s exchange program.

Air conditioners can increase your utility bills during the summer months, but Columbia Water and Light will knock off 3 percent of your bill if you sign up for their Load Management program.

A device can be installed that will turn off your air conditioning unit in cycles of 7 1/2 minutes every half hour during peak energy consumption.

“I think the biggest misconception is that we cycle all the time,” said Tim Pohlman, load management specialist. “In reality, we only use it during the peaks. It sells itself once people figure that out.”

The devices can cut up to 20 megawatts of the electric load, so Water and Light can afford to give 3 percent of the bill back to customers.

Pohlman said that they have about 400 customers waiting to have a device installed, but Water and Light will immediately give the discount to people who sign up. He also predicts that they will be caught up with demand in about 2 to 3 weeks. But if that is too long of a wait, people can hire a local contractor to install the device, and Water and Light will pay for it.

Pohlman estimated that about 1,000 to 1,500 devices were sold during the spring, when people were anticipating the summer weather and high utility bills.

People can call the Water and Light department for more information.

“We’ll help you out if you have a question,” Pohlman said. “Give us a call, we’ll walk you through it.”

To sign up for Load Management call: 874-7325 or fill out the online application at

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