Hamilton wanted to help its poorer residents save on energy costs. They have, by $125K.

In the past year alone, a program Hamilton uses to help residents and organizations that serve them cut costs saved poorer residents about $125,000 on electric bills over the lifetime of energy-efficient devices that were installed.

That was more than 4.5 times more than happened during 2016.

The Efficiency Smart program, which just ended its third year at the end of January, also has helped charitable organizations that help the poor. In year three, Efficiency Smart workers focused more heavily on both the poor themselves and such charities.

“The city, with Efficiency Smart, has always focused on trying to help all of our customers,” said Michael Gurr, the city utilities’ field services superintendent. “In year three, we made a special effort to really focus in a lot on our vulnerable populations.”

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One organization helped was the YWCA in Hamilton, which was built in 1932 and isn’t very energy efficient.

Christa Carnahan, residence director there, said the program did an energy audit and then replaced lots of lighting inside and outside with energy-efficient bulbs and other devices that should save $6,700 a year in electric costs.

The program also provided low-flow faucets and shower heads, which not only will reduce water bills, but with lower water use, also will trim the need for water heaters to work as much.

“For a non-profit agency, that’s a lot of money,” Carnahan said.

For the women living in the YWCA’s 31 efficiency apartments, the program offered lessons on how to save money in other ways, such as unplugging chargers, irons, and other devices when they are not in use. Residents were motivated to help their YWCA landlord save money that way, which Carnahan said was very gratifying.

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How will the YWCA use those savings?

“More programming, being able to help more people,” Carnahan said. “The operating costs are a lot, and it’ll just be put back into programs. It is an awesome program. The people are great to work with. We didn’t even hardly know they were here.”

The Efficiency Smart program was aided by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 648, where Hamilton Council Member Matt Von Stein is a leader. The union donated time installing energy-efficient devices.

“By utilizing the efficiencies of several of these improvements, it’s able to lower their overall utility costs at these facilities,” Gurr said. “Money can then be reinvested back into each of these organizations to provide additional services that they may not have the opportunity in the past to offer.”

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Here are some of the organizations that have been helped:

  • At the Booker T. Washington Community Center, gym and pool area lights to lower-powered, longer lasting light-emitting diodes (LED's).
  • At Open Door Food Pantry, volunteers from IBEW Local 648 installed LEDs. The program also gave more than 800 LEDs to those receiving services from the food pantry.
  • At the Serve City homeless shelter, helped by IBEW volunteers, more than 90 LED lights throughout the homeless shelter at no cost to the organization. More than 1,400 free LEDs were distributed to food-pantry users there.
  • 27 apartments at Neighborhood Housing Services were outfitted with LEDs, low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators and smart power strips.
  • At Sherman Manor's 61 affordable-housing units for senior citizens, almost 400 lightbulbs with LEDs.
  • Through Supports to Low-Income Families (SELF), more than 300 families eligible for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) reduce their energy bills with LED's.

When the city began the program three years ago, the aim was to cut about 8,900 megawatt hours of savings across three years.

“I can tell you, through today, over the course of three years, we have saved 12,134 megawatt hours,” Gurr said. “So we have far exceeded what our three-year goal was. We’re pretty close to 140 percent.”

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Through the program’s first two years alone, Efficiency Smart had reduced the need for Hamilton’s municipal-owned electric utility to produce 8,769 megawatt-hours, enough to power about 913 homes.

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Through the two years, the program also cut the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions by an estimated 216.97 million pounds through the lifetimes of the products installed.

“To put it in perspective, over the three years, just on the residential side we have served almost 8,500 customers, and across the board for all commercial, industrial and residential customers, we have generated a lifetime savings of just over $14 million,” Gurr said.

That has been a great return-on-investment for a program that has cost the city about $785,000 a year, he said. The city now is examining what future return on investment can be gained if it continues to contract with Efficiency Smart in coming years.

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