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Home Energy Audits for Student Renters

Student Sustainability Ambassadors (SEA’s) conduct a home energy audit with a fellow student.

Oct. 18, 2012 – Many students think they are living frugally while attending college, but they may not know about the ways they can save money every day, right in their own homes. With the onset of colder weather, the University of Utah Office of Sustainability is coordinating a new energy efficiency program aimed at student renters called the Student Energy Ambassadors (SEAs).

The goal of the program is to help students save money on energy bills by providing them with the tools and information they need to cut back on their use of natural gas, electricity and water. The ambassadors are trained in basic home energy auditing and charged with performing 100 residential energy assessments for their peers during the 2012-2013 academic year.

“Many students would like to save money and be more sustainable in their homes, but they aren’t given the basic information to help them accomplish those goals,” says Ashley Patterson, ambassador program manager and outreach and education coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.

She says “our SEAs will teach other students about everything from how to manage phantom power to the proper temperature to set a hot water heater, as well as information on rebates offered by utility companies.”

Each assessment is scheduled by the Student Energy Ambassador operations coordinator once a student renter has expressed interest. The whole process takes about an hour to complete. Two trained SEAs then evaluate the residence and sit down with the student renter to discuss targeted ways to save money on energy bills, based on specific observations from each home.

The energy ambassadors will look for phantom power usage, which is caused by appliances and devices that use electricity while they are switched off (but are designed to draw some power) or in a standby mode. They also help install energy-saving devices such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, smart power strips, sink aerators, low-flow showerheads and water heater blankets.

Mike Lynch, scheduling and operations coordinator for the program, says: “Our team of three students is very passionate about sustainability and energy issues. I love that this program is a win for the environment in terms of lower fossil-fuel consumption and a win for the student renters who benefit from lower utility bills.”