You finally have a quick and easy place to turn with all your questions about how to save money on energy. The new energy conservation bill, expected to be signed by President Carter next week, makes your local gas or electric utility company the fount of all wisdom. You'll be able to ask it what kind of energy improvements are right for your house, how much they'd save on your energy bills, and even where to get money to finance the improvements.
A good many utilities do these things already, at least to some extent, according to a spokesman for Edison Electric Institute. But others have resisted the job, partly because of the money it costs and partly because the work is such a nuisance. Now they'll have to do it, ready or not. All in all, this bill is a splendid answer to the eternal consumer questions, "Who do I ask? Where do I find out?"
This part of the President's energy plan has been largely overshadowed by the energy tax bill, which provides tax cerdits for certain forms of energy-saving expenditures.
The energy conservation bill will take a little longer to go into effect. Systems have to be devised for disseminating information about energy improvements, so it may be at least a year and a half before your local utility has the answers you need. However, if the utility already has an information program - as the majority of them do - you can turn to it for advice right away. Here's what the bill requires utilities to do:
Give customers general information about how they can save energy on their particular type of building, its likely cost, who might do it for them and how it can be financed. Information campaigns have to be approved by federal and state energy offices, and be ready by Jan. 1, 1980.
Inspect your home, if asked, in order to suggest specific energy savings measures, estimate what they'd cost and explain how much they would save on your energy bills.
Give you a list of local contractors who can do the job and local lenders who can help with financing. These lists will be developed by state agencies, and you can bet that everyone will lobby to be on it. The utility itself may lend you up to $300 for certain jobs.
Let you repay an energy-improvement loan in installments along with your utility bill, even if you borrowed the money from a bank rather than from the utility itself. You'll be charged a modest fee for this service.
Offer to install devices in your home that will cut off energy to certain appliances at times of peak demand. You should get a lower utility rate if you accept this kind of service.
In addition, the government will make money available for loans to lower-income families who want to weatherize their homes and make other improvements. Some of the money will be be available through community agencies, some through private lenders.
Who pays for the new utility-information programs will generally be worked out by state agencies. Private-home inspections may be charged to the homeowner; other costs may be passed on to the general public. But the price is worth it, if it means you can finally get your questions answered about how much weatherization it really makes sense to pay for.