January 21, 2005

Workshop offers tips on cutting energy costs

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Area residents can learn how to cut their utility bills at a free workshop set for 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Carbondale Civic Center.

Local energy experts will talk about energy-efficient techniques and products that can save homeowners hundreds of dollars in energy costs. Workshop participants will receive energy-efficient products, including compact fluorescent bulbs, insulation materials for doors, windows, sockets and light switches, and a water-saving showerhead.

The workshop is one of several activities sponsored by Rebuild Carbondale, a program aimed at improving energy management in regional homes and businesses. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity sponsors Rebuild Carbondale. Southern Illinois University Carbondale serves as headquarters for the project.

"The University is a good link for much of Southern Illinois," said James A. Mathias, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who oversees the project.

"While the name of the project is ‘Rebuild Carbondale,' one of our goals is to educate inspectors, contractors, architects, engineers — anyone in the region who's involved in commercial and residential building — about the state's new Energy Efficient Commercial Building Code, which requires a certain level of energy efficiency. Training also will be given on the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as it could be applied to residential construction across Southern Illinois."

The project also will work with the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce to help local business owners identify potential energy savings and, in some cases, help defray the costs of energy efficiency improvements.

"We'd like for the business owners to submit proposals for modifications that would improve their energy efficiency," Mathias said. "We will read through the proposals, decide which ones will demonstrate the greatest impact and then make $500 awards to those businesses after the energy efficiency improvements are completed."

Mathias said as many as 10 companies could receive such grants.

"Any business can work with us — it's not restricted to members of the chamber," he said.

An offshoot of the project called Rebuild Union County is profiling energy use in county-owned buildings. Project staff will use the results of the energy audit to determine where the greatest energy-management needs lie. They also will seek public and corporate partners committed to improving energy conservation.

Those wanting more information about the project or to schedule an energy workshop may call Mathias at 618/453-7016 or e-mail him at mathias@engr.siu.edu.

Enhancing regional development and shaping cooperative ventures are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the long-range blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.