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Residents learn how to reduce household energy use

Gail Calcagnino with a rain barrel that she won at the energy challenge wrap-up event held by Sustainable Skaneateles. The barrel collects rainwater from a house’s gutters to be used for watering gardens.

Gail Calcagnino with a rain barrel that she won at the energy challenge wrap-up event held by Sustainable Skaneateles. The barrel collects rainwater from a house’s gutters to be used for watering gardens. Joe Genco

After spending six weeks monitoring their energy usage and efficiency of their homes, many local residents had stories to share.

Sustainable Skaneateles held an event to wrap up its six-week energy challenge program Saturday, June 15 at the Creamery. The event included a raffle and a time for the participants to share what they learned from the program.

Sixty households participated in the challenge and were split into teams with leaders who would hold meetings once a week and work through the program’s curriculum as laid out in a guidebook that all participants received.

The energy challenge is an event organized by the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board to get people to learn how to make their homes more efficient and reduce their utility bills.

One of the biggest goals of the program is to get people to identify and eliminate wasted energy in their homes, event coordinator Sam Gordon said. Most homes can reduce their energy usage by about 30 percent monthly by reducing waste from inefficient light bulbs, appliances or having electronics plugged in all the time, Gordon said.

The guidebook was split into five parts: reading utility meters and taking an inventory of appliances, taking an inventory of lighting and light bulbs, identifying the “phantom load,” or items like stereos or cable boxes that waste energy by being plugged in constantly, assessing heating and cooling efficiency and having a contractor do a home energy assessment. The professional home energy assessment is supported by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Green Jobs, Green New York,” initiative and is free for anyone who has a household income of under $120,000, Gordon said.

The energy challenge’s pilot program was run in Syracuse earlier this year and since then the CNYRPD has been doing the challenge with a number of smaller communities like Skaneateles.

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