Energy bills can take quite a toll on college students’ bank accounts.
Student and Community Outreach on Renter Energy ($CORE) is helping curtail energy bills for students living on The Hill, in Martin Acres, Goss Grove and certain areas of Aurora, according to its Web site.
By walking through student homes and pointing out inefficiencies, $CORE works to educate tenants as to the changes they can make to conserve energy, said Christina Aalto, a junior environmental-studies major and creator of the program.
“When we are going on these visits we’re going to try really hard to get the tenants to interact with us and go around the house with us,” Aalto said. “We really want them to get the hands-on experience by doing it with us.”
$CORE’s energy visits are free for students and provide basic materials for getting started on making homes less costly. The program provides students with energy-efficient resources, such as 20 free compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs and water-saving shower heads, said Dan Omasta, a senior political science major and director of sustainability for the University of Colorado Student Union, who received an audit in January.
The incentive provided for full-tenant involvement is a free Cosmo’s pizza if more than half of the roommates are present for the audit, according to their Web site.
Many of the houses in the areas $CORE services haven’t been updated and are wasting energy, Aalto said.
These energy inefficiencies are proving to be costly to students, said Mike Kuss, a masters candidate in electrical engineering who audits for the program.
“Just a couple dollars of cheap weather stripping and light bulbs can save potentially hundreds of dollars depending on how much your energy bill is and how much your home needs,” Kuss said.
Students who receive the audit are asked questions about their current energy knowledge and behavior and then taken throughout their house to see where energy is being wasted, Omasta said.
“They first sat down with us and got some basic behavioral info, like if we recycle, compost, if we have turned down the heater, if we close windows,” Omasta said. “Then they walked us through the house and looked at the thermostat, replaced the sink with low-flow faucet aerators to save water and electricity.”
Kuss said the most surprising change the energy educators made at his residence was checking the temperature of the fridge and freezer.
“My freezer was like five degrees below what it should have been so we turned it up,” Kuss said.
Replacing light bulbs is key to reducing ones energy bill, said Rob Hall, energy program manager for the Environmental Center.
“[Students] can save at least $20 a year on energy bills when using CFLS,” Hall said.
The idea for the program was born while Aalto was in Dr. Lisa Barlow’s Sustainable Solutions Consulting class in the Spring of 2009.
“We learned about the issue of rental efficiency and how neither tenants nor landlords have the financial incentive to make energy updates to their properties,” Aalto said.
While interning with Colorado Public Interest Research Group, Aalto put together a report for the general public so everyone could understand the program. She said she released her report through a press conference in September of 2009 and was ready to launch a campaign on finding a solution to the problem.
“I worked with the E-center to make a great program we could run,” Aalto said.
$CORE is funded through a Wells Fargo environmental grant in conjunction with the Environmental Center, according to the program’s Web site.
Students who are interested in having energy educators visit their residence can visit the $CORE Web site, where they can sign up for an audit as well as contact the program with further questions.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Erica Lindberg at Erica.email@example.com.