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Energy efficiency competition to kick off in Charleston's East End

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There's a lot of competition and fighting in the energy world, except, that is, on the matter of energy efficiency, but a local organization in Charleston wants to change that.

Energy Efficiency in the East End, or e4, seeks to pit neighbor against neighbor, block against block in an effort to be better users of West Virginia energy through Appalachian Power's HomeSMART assessment and energy efficiency retrofits in an effort to create "a culture of energy conservation."

"Energy conservation is strangely non-controversial, right?" said Cullen Naumoff, a project manager with the Charleston Area Alliance, a partner in the project. "Everyone believes in energy efficiency."

The best way to bring it to a community? Naumoff said competition was seen among several case studies as a valuable tool for bringing about energy efficiency.

The program was announced at a meeting Jan. 15 of the East End Community Association. Any East End block from the 35th St. bridge to Leon Sullivan Way is eligible as long as there is a block captain.

There's even a prize category dedicated solely to renters. Those with their own meters can participate in the program, including the free energy audit. People living in units that aren't individually metered can participate in the program through an online self-assessment.

"We really want renters to participate too," Naumoff said.

Those in the East End who wish to participate in the program, the first of its kind in West Virginia, can sign up for a free Appalachian Power Company HomeSMART energy assessment while registering for the program at eastende4.com. More information on the program is available at the website.

"We send a VPS-certified technician to your home. It takes about an hour, hour and half and they do an interior-exterior inspection of your home," said Travis Paxton with Good Cents, an energy efficiency auditor. "They check for things like insulation levels in your closets and basements, look at your windows and doors and ask how many hours a week do you watch that big television, how many loads of laundry you do a week and things like that."

Then, all of that data is used by a computer program to calculate potential savings.

The competition kicks off on Feb. 1. Winners qualify for dinner with a local celebrity, a night at the Power Park minor league baseball field, an iPad, a Discover Clay membership for the local center for arts and sciences, and a full weatherization audit.

The data on energy usage will be collected and reported by the user monthly.

Heating and cooling, long representing more than half of U.S. electricity bills, are falling below that level to just over 40 percent. That means that simple things such as weatherization or buying updated electronics have the potential to shave several dollars off of each utility bill.

There are a number of energy saving solutions residents of the East End will be able to utilize to ensure a place on the end-of-the-year prize list. Simple things such as turning off extra lights, unplugging charged electronics or replacing outdated light bulbs could make a big difference in energy consumption.

One of the biggest emphases the program makes is that while it does result in reduced consumption of electricity, it provides a more direct, individual benefit in the form of cost savings.

As part of the program, educational presentations are made throughout the year. Some of those classes teach basic energy efficiency or get hands on in showing how to caulk windows. Other classes are seasonal based, such as a home cooling class in April or a session on holiday lighting in November.

Energy reporter Taylor Kuykendall writes the Grounded energy blog on The State Journal website.