ENERGY SAVINGS: Simple steps can add up when it comes to saving energy at home and work

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Families and businesses looking at the bottom line are looking at their utility bill to save. You don't have to suffer in a cold house to cut your utility bill this time of year. But, energy experts say the little things you do can add up, which can help your pocket book and the environment. One central Iowa family and a University are learning that lesson.

The Lehmans just moved into their new home. Parents Sara and Brad Lehman say they're looking to save. Mrs. Lehman says, "Being aware of being more efficient in your house and being able to save money. And, with the economy the way it is, finding ways to watch our pennies."

That's where Jim Clark comes in. He's an energy auditor. He does more than 150 audits for Ames Electric customers every year at no cost to them. He spends about an hour going through a home finding ways to conserve. He says, "If the average homeowner spends $2,000 a year on gas and electricity, it's not unusual that you could find 10 to 20 percent of that in savings."

Iowa State University Associate Vice President of Facilities says he's noticed savings by people making small changes. He says, "At a place like Iowa State University, our total utility bill is about $33 million a year, so it's a lot of little actions."

He says the university changed the way it paid for utilities two and a half years ago. The school started billing individual colleges. Miller says, "For the first time they were receiving bills for all the utilities they conserved, and obviously they became quite interested in their energy use. Immediately in that first year, we saw people save over $1 million."

Miller says the savings was despite adding four new buildings to campus. He says staff switched computers to the energy efficient mode and now turn the machines off at night. Crews also installed lighting controls and sensors in low traffic areas. And, they're experimenting with LED lights in buildings and in street lights. Miller says, "A lot of our efforts are on education as we go with education, we make sure people know what their utility bill is and how big it is and what they can do to make a difference."

The Lehmans say they're trying make a difference as they make small changes to their new living space.

If you're a homeowner looking to save, many utility companies offer free energy audits. Clark's service is free for Ames Electric customers. Mid-American Energy will do one if your home was built before 2001.