Save energy, save money: A behind-the-scenes look at a TDPUD energy audit |

Save energy, save money: A behind-the-scenes look at a TDPUD energy audit

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Walk into homes and businesses around Truckee, and some of the evidence is obvious and#8212; compact fluorescent light bulbs and Energy Star-labeled appliances replacing old energy suckers, for example.

Other changes aren’t so easy to spot, from sealed-up leaks in heating ducts to double-pained windows; measures that make it easier to keep buildings warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

But most of these changes, obvious or not, have a common source and#8212; the energy and water-saving programs of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, aimed to not only reduce the use of these resources, but to save customers money on their bills as well.

and#8220;I’ve been in the utility industry for 27 years, and I’ve never seen a year like these last two where the interest and participation in conservation programs is so high,and#8221; said Scott Terrell, conservation specialist for the district, referring to the down economy’s influence.

About 220 Truckee businesses have taken advantage of green programs the utility district offers, said Steven Poncelet, public information and conservation manager for the district.

Last year, the Sierra Sun decided to be counted among them.

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The Truckee Donner Public Utility District has a wide array of options for business and home owners to save energy, water and money, but the easiest way to start was with Scott Terrell walking into the Sierra Sun office on Deerfield Drivelast spring.

Terrell, accompanied by Mary Winston of Energy Masters, set their trained eyes on everything from the building’s orientation to the sun and roof slope to the many computers, printers and appliance that sit in front of each reporter, editor, advertising consultant and office person.

Terrell examined the labels and#8212; noting Energy Star printers and an old refrigerator as he worked his way through the building and#8212; then got down to the business of measuring actual electricity use.

Placing and#8220;Kill-a-wattand#8221; meters on each wall socket where an appliance was plugged in, Terrell gathered data on how much electricity was used over the course of a week.

While most electronics in the office could be replaced with the latest and greatest, Terrell said he focuses on the items that would make financial sense to update.

and#8220;Basically, the only thing we suggested was switching to an Energy Star refrigerator,and#8221; Terrell said.

The Sun’s 15-year-old, 22-cubic-foot refrigerator uses a little more than 114 watts per hour, Terrell calculated, costing $159.16 a year in energy.

A new Yellow Energy Guide Label refrigerator of comparable size would cost $71.23 per year, by comparison, saving $87.93, according to Terrell’s report.

Given an average cost of $900, minus a $100 rebate the Truckee Donner Public Utility District Offers to replace old, energy inefficient refrigerators, it would take a little more than nine years for the new refrigerator to pay for itself, he said.

and#8220;That’s a pay back of about 11 percent and#8212; that’s better than the 1 or 2 percent return you’d get putting money in the bank,and#8221; Terrell said.