Volunteer Marilyn Caprara knows how to get audiences hooked on energy conservation. All she had to do at a seminar on the subject recently was ask, "Would any of you like $300?" and her audience of 35 perked up instantly.
Caprara is not literally giving away money, but she does know how to save money by reducing energy bills, and her mission these days is to share that information.
Caprara works with PRIDE (Practical Remedies Insure Decreasing Energy), a volunteer organization that is conducting more than 80 seminars on energy conservation in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park throughout October. Caprara's meeting at Mills Godwin Middle School in Dale City last week was the program kickoff.
PRIDE is being coordinated through Community Services Inc. of Manassas in conjunction with ACTION, the federal volunteer service agency. ACTION has formed Community Energy PRojects in more than 30 communities around the nation, but PRIDE is its first effort in the Washington area, according to Francis A. Luzzatto, ACTION's energy projects director.
"Most people's attitude has been that energy conservation is for technicians. We're saying, 'Wait!'" Luzzatto said at the Godwin School seminar. "With a reasonable amount of training, average citizens can apply low-cost or no-cost techniques on their own to reduce home energy consumption by 5 to 25 percent."
PRIDE is receiving technical assistance from Vepco and the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service but has opted not to accept any grants from ACTION, Luzzatto said.
A booklet produced by PRIDE with information supplied by Vepco points out that in Prince William, as in most of the nation, energy costs have soared. Electricity, which cost less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour 10 years ago, now costs more than 7 cents, according to the booklet. Gas, which was 13 cents per thermal energy unit, is 43 cents and still rising.
ACTION introduced the Community Energy Project two years ago in Fitchburg, Mass., a town of 14,000 households 50 miles northwest of Boston. Though only 21.7 percent of the households attended the workshops, 59.2 percent of all households in the community said they realized some energy savings from the month-long campaign, Luzzatto said. The average saving for shouseholds that attended the workshops was 14 percent, he added.
Luzzatto said the Fitchburg experiment was successful primarily because "the people perceived it [the high cost of energy] as a problem they could fight.
"You're not fighting anybody," he continued. "Everyone agrees that conservation is the cheapest source of energy. In addition, the idea is compatible with the president's ideal when he called for a 'new spirit of volunteerism.'"
Energy-saving recommendations made at last week's seminar included:
* Caulk and weatherstrip around windows and doors, especially around loose-fitting window sashes and casings, around loose-fitting entrance doors and around any openings between heated and unheated spaces. If you leave a crack one-eight of an inch wide around any window, Caprara said, you are, in effect, cutting a 6-inch-by-6-inch hole in a wall and letting the heat escape.
* Turn down the thermostat when no one is home and before going to bed. A thermostat setting of 55 degrees for 12 hours a day can save 18 to 20 percent of the heating bill,
* Seal any kitchen or bathroom vents during the winter to save as much as $36 dollars per heating season.
* When free-standing radiators are located on outside walls or near them, place aluminum foil behind the radiator to deflect heat into the room that would otherwise be lost through the wall. Caprara said this can save as much as $38 a year in heating costs.
* Take advantage of the sume. On an average January day, a 5-by-8-foot window with a southern exposure can collect as much heat as a furnace can produce using 12 gallons of fuel oil. So keep drapes, blinds and shades open on sunny days, but be sure to close them at night. This can cut heat loss through windows by 16 percent, Caprara and Luzzatto said.
* Make sure the fireplace damper is tightly closed when the fireplace is not in use.
* Install water-flow restrictors on all hot-water outlests. A flow restrictor can reduce the amount of water used in a five-minute shower from 35 gallons to 15 gallons, Caprara said. The average family of four uses 23,000 gallons of hot water each year, Luzzatto said, but water usage can be reduced by as much as 50 percent.
* Put new washers in leaky hot-water faucets. Caprara said this can help lower the water bill by $15 to $25 dollars a year.
* Insulate the hot-water tank.