Free event may help ease utility bill blues

Consider it self-defense for your pocketbook.

That’s one way to look at the upcoming Home Energy Conservation Fair. The free event – which will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds – will offer a variety of tips for people looking to keep their winter heating bills under control.

Michelle Crank, a show organizer with the city’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Division, said most people will need all the help they can get this winter.

“It is pretty much a guarantee that all of our utility bills are going to skyrocket this year,” Crank said.

Officials with Aquila, Lawrence’s natural gas provider, announced late last month that they were projecting natural gas bills for homeowners to increase by 30 percent to 40 percent compared with a year ago. For typical homeowners, that will mean an extra $40 to $50 per month through the winter heating season of November through March.

That’s on top of the hit that personal budgets are taking from high gasoline prices, which are about $1 per gallon higher than a year ago.

John Craft, owner of Lawrence-based Kaw Valley Home Care, said fair-goers should hear quite a few tips that go beyond the ordinary advice about adding weather-stripping or turning down thermostats.


Lawrence’s fifth annual Home Energy Conservation Fair will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St. Several presentations are scheduled for the event, including:

¢ 10:15 a.m.: Keep Home Fuel Costs Low by John Craft.
¢ 11 a.m.: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Systems by Rich Wenzel.
¢ Noon: Legislative Update on Energy Issues by Rep. Tom Sloan.
¢ 1 p.m.: Building Outside the Box by author and builder Bill Hanlon.
¢ 2:15 p.m.: Keep Home Fuel Costs Low by John Craft.
¢ 3 p.m.: Wind Energy by David Johnson of Pinnacle Technology.
The event also will feature a bus tour of four Lawrence homes that are using innovative methods of conserving energy. The tour bus leaves the fairgrounds at 2 p.m. There’s a $5 charge to attend the tour. All other parts of the event are free.

“Most homes have areas that leak,” Craft said. “There’s usually some improvements that most people can make.”

Craft said common problems were areas around ceiling light fixtures that aren’t well sealed and allow heat to escape into the attic. He said similar problems existed around light switches that were on an outside wall.

“On a day where there is any type of wind, that is a huge place for infiltration,” said Craft, who will be demonstrating a device that measures a home’s airtightness.

Crank said there also will be demonstrations of several innovative energy-saving devices, such as solar-powered hot water heaters and radiant heat systems.

At 1 p.m., the event will feature a keynote speech from Emporia-area author and building instructor Bill Hanlon on how to use new approaches to make homes more energy efficient.

The event also will have booths that give tips to motorists on how to save fuel. There will be exhibits featuring solar-powered cars, gasoline/electric hybrids, and vehicles that run on ethanol and biodiesel.

Craft said that he thought more people were becoming more energy conscious all the time, and he said not all of it was motivated by finances. He said some were becoming more concerned because of world events.

“There are some doing it for moral reasons, too,” Craft said. “There are a lot of people who feel like we are in Iraq because of oil, and they don’t want that to happen in their name.”