Matt White, an Oklahoma City resident, read about the service in a newsletter that came with his bill. He decided to call to schedule an appointment.
“The house was built in 1931,” White said, “so I’d already been doing some remodeling and fixing up. I had spent some time educating myself about energy efficiency and weatherization, but when I saw the $50 price, I thought it couldn’t hurt to try.”
White said another component of the program made him even more curious: a possible $300 credit toward duct repair.
That makes the possible total $655. Karen Kurtz, a spokesperson for OGE, laughed when asked why the company is giving away so much stuff and trying to help customers lower energy bills.
above Matt White seals an electrical outlet, a common source of air leaks.
OGE wants to be a good corporate citizen by helping to meet the needs of our customers.
“We really do get that question from many people,” she said. “Why would we want to sell less of our own product? First, we are citizens of the state, too, so we want to be good citizens, and OGE wants to be a good corporate citizen by helping to meet the needs of our customers.”
Another reason is OGE’s “2020 Goal.” The company doesn’t want to build a new fossil fuel burning plant until 2020.
“The energy audit helps us identify problems, which helps us fulfill our goal of no new plant until 2020,” Kurtz said. “People need to be able to conserve, to keep their costs down. That helps us keep our costs down and ensures higher costs aren’t passed on to our customers.”
Kurtz said that the audit includes measurements for air leakage because 10 to 20 percent of many utility bills are directly attributable to leaks in the house, including faulty ductwork.
“I had the audit done at my house, too,” she said. “My ducts were in a row, so to speak, so I didn’t need the credit.”
For people who do need duct repair, OGE will send a contractor to the house to do up to $300 in repairs. The company will also provide a total estimate if the price exceeds $300 and offer customers a list of contractors if the customers want to use someone else for the work.
White’s house qualified for the credit. “Whoever (first) installed the heater left a big hole between the ductwork and the unit,” he said. “Whenever the unit ran, the attic filled with hot air. I never noticed the hole.” The contractor did, however, and he fixed the problem, saving White money on his energy bill.
In addition to the measurements and home inventory, the audit also provides a weatherization kit that includes door sweeps, caulk and weather-stripping. Doors and windows are major offenders in heating and cooling loss. Kurtz also mentioned one unlikely suspect.
“The kit also includes light switch sealers,” she said. “The cracks around the light switches, believe it or not, are another source of leaks.”
The audit also provides for an air conditioner tune-up. Kurtz said that customers could sign up for the audit any time, but the air conditioner tune-up can only be completed in spring and summer.
“The unit has to run, and the techs say that the outside temperature needs to be above 70 degrees to do the job accurately,” she said.
The company began offering the service in September 2010, and Kurtz said the response has been very positive. “We tested the program on our own employees first,” she said. “We wanted to give it a test run and make sure the contractors were polite, professional and efficient.”
White said he believes the service is excellent “for people who aren’t educated on home efficiency.”
“I didn’t learn anything new,” he said, “but I can see where the service would benefit someone who hasn’t spent time learning about this stuff.”
White said the whole audit took about an hour and a half. “The tech checked inside and outside the house,” he said. “When he was finished, he even provided me a report that showed my energy usage compared to houses in the metro with the same square footage as mine. It helped me see that I was doing pretty well with my remodeling.”
Information is available on OGE’s website, and appointments can be scheduled via web or phone.