They may not be on the national bestseller lists, but pamphlets with names such as "Red-Hot Rebates," "Compost Now!" and "Heat Pump Handbook" were moving fast Saturday in Montgomery County.
The pamphlets were among the items on display at an open house for the Home Energy Services Center in Kensington, a pilot program initiated by the county, with additional funding from the state and utilities, to provide homeowners with information on saving energy with a "one-stop" shopping approach.
"Our purpose is to promote residential energy conservation among homeowners in the county," said Dianne Pellicori, the center's director. "I think we're just getting some connection built up among homeowners. People are referring neighbors and friends, and those people are beginning to call us."
The center is operated by a nonprofit organization contracted by Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection and was established last September for a two-year test period. Since then, it has served about 300 households, center officials said.
Under one roof are free information and services that ordinarily would be available from various state, county and commercial organizations. The program primarily serves single-family homeowners.
The center will provide a home energy analysis by trained energy auditors, books and pamphlets describing how to save energy at home, lists of licensed contractors, workshops or speakers for community groups, and referrals to other county and state programs, such as low-interest loans.
Debbie Hipkins, an administrative assistant at Refuge Church of Christ in Olney, used the service because "I don't know a lot about mechanical things," she said.
She had an energy audit, which recommended that she caulk the cracks around the windows and doors of her home in Wheaton. Other tips included putting rugs on the hardwood floors in the winter, replacing her wooden kitchen door that has a single-pane window and insulating the attic.
"My bills have been going down" since then, Hipkins said. "I expect a big difference this winter because of the caulking. I like places you can go and ask them any question you can think of, and if they don't know the answer, they'll find it out."
Victor and Lois Seigel, of Silver Spring, were among the 50 people who center officials said attended the open house. They came in search of information and someone to speak to the American Association of Retired Persons.
"Senior citizens can always use help in learning to economize and put their money to work, keeping it hotter in the wintertime and cooler in the summertime," Lois Seigel said.
"It's patriotic to save energy, make less pollution and improve your balance of payments," Victor Seigel added.
Although the center is open to all county residents, it is located in southeastern Montgomery because the surrounding area had been found to be demographically representative of the county as a whole and had been targeted for evaluation.
The area's 63,500 households are average for their percentage of single-family units, age of dwellings, household incomes and percent of dual-income households, among other factors.
Funding for the center is primarily provided by the Maryland Energy Office, with services and other money coming from Montgomery County, Potomac Electric Power Co. and Maryland Natural Gas. The operating budget for the first year is $170,000.