One MCPS Principal Shares Her Energy Saving Story!

May 8, 2019
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Principal DuBois

Quick Home Energy Checkups (QHEC) are easy, free and can help save money on energy costs. But what exactly does it take to schedule and complete one? To help give a better idea of what a QHEC involves, My Green Montgomery interviewed Principal Rachel DuBois, who works at Bayard Rustin Elementary School in Rockville. She recently had a QHEC done and wanted to share her experience with other principals, teachers and parents. Find out what her experience was like in this exclusive interview.

My Green Montgomery: Tell us a bit about your introduction to a Quick Home Energy Checkup. Did your auditor find you or did you solicit them?

Principal DuBois: They found me! I think someone had knocked on my door lots of times, and we were always running somewhere or about to leave or about to do something. But I always said “Please come back!” as we just didn’t have the time. So maybe the fourth time someone knocked…I was able to share my information and follow up with somebody in making an appointment for the home energy check. I think the auditor had mentioned that there’s something on your bill or something you can notice, but I pay my bill online and I don’t always read all the little fine-print things. So I hadn’t known about it until someone knocked on my door.

What – if anything – had you known about QHEC before you had one? Had you heard of the program before?

Principal DuBois has new LEDs put into her kitchen fixtures

PD: I had heard of the program through some folks from Montgomery County Public Schools because we do the SERT [School Energy Recycling Team] Program and a few of them had recommended it to staff when they had come out to speak at a previous school I was at. I had heard about it, but I didn’t seek out the information really until someone had come over asking for us to have an appointment.

When you got the knock on your door and the energy auditor told you what they wanted, did you think it was a trick or a sales pitch of some kind?

PD: At first I did, but the person who had knocked on my door was super knowledgeable, had a pamphlet of information for me to check out, asked me to sign up for a time and said that if I change my mind for any reason or went ahead and looked at the information and decided that it was something I didn’t want to do, that I could cancel it at anytime. I had made a tentative appointment that day with the auditor who had come out and I wasn’t able to keep [it]. When I called the number they gave me, the person on the phone…kind of walked me through what to expect, how long it would take and things of that nature – so there was that second layer that was super helpful as well.

What was the process of actually getting the QHEC like? From the time it began until it was done, how long did it last?

PD: I would say an hour and a half. I think it could have been a little shorter, but we asked a ton of questions! The person who had come out to our home was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. My kids were home and they were interested in seeing all the fun stuff like the light bulbs and all of that good stuff. It was a great experience.

What did they provide you with during the checkup? Were you given light bulbs, lo-flow/high-efficiency showerheads, facet aerators, smart power strips or anything else once the audit was done?

They installed shower heads in the bathrooms

PD: We were given two different showerheads, lots of light bulbs as we have a ton of recessed lighting. Our basement is a play area for the kids and a family area, so the gentleman who was out did the light bulbs in there. He had some left over for the bathrooms and our kitchen. We were given the power strips and some fun little freebees like timers to time how long your shower is – It’s like a little sand timer that you flip over – back and forth – It tells you when the five minutes are up for your shower. My kids use the timer. They’re trying to stick to it, but it doesn’t really happen. But…even if we aren’t taking shorter showers, we are aware that we’re taking showers longer than five minutes!

Were you surprised by any of the recommendations they gave you?

PD: Yes! The energy-saving power strips were awesome. I love them! The [auditor] showed us some tricks for how to use them as it can be a little bit confusing at first – like how you’re using outlets with the power strips to save energy and save money. He showed us which way to put the cable outlet with the PlayStation for the kids and how all of that would work together with the TV. We loved that! That was our favorite – along with the showerhead that has the little string that stops swelling once the water heats up to save water. Those were awesome!

Did the cost of the audit surprise you?

PD: Yes – in that it was free! You always wonder when something is free if someone is going to try to sell you something within that “free” – and that didn’t happen. I really, really appreciated that.

Has the QHEC made you think more about doing a full Home Energy Performance with ENERGYSTAR audit to help you see what changes you can make to qualify for any tax credits or rebates?

PD: Absolutely! Our home is just getting to the point where we would think about possibly…if we need a roof or new windows or things like that. The [auditor] was saying that lots of people think they need new windows, but you don’t always need new windows. Doing that full battery assessment can help you determine ways to prioritize things that you need in your home or upgrades that you’re considering.

Do you wish you would have done the QHEC sooner?

PD: Yes, I do! You know, when someone comes to your door, it’s hard, because other people are soliciting for new windows, new roofing, new siding. So when someone did come to the door, it did feel like it was a solicitor at first – until you are talking to the person. If I had noticed something on my bill or heard another way, I might have been able to do it sooner.

Would you to recommend getting a QHEC to area friends and family?

PTA members received a shower timer during the DEP presentation to help reduce water usage in the home

PD: Absolutely! We had a PTA meeting a few months ago at my school and parents were able to learn about energy-saving tips and lots of great resources through Montgomery County. I did share my experience at that meeting. I don’t think my neighbors had done it and I really hadn’t known too many people who had done it so I was happy to share my experience because I just thought it was really neat – and helpful – to us.

Did you learn anything that you think would be of benefit to your school or worth sharing with your students?

PD: We have a SERT so there are a lot of resources we have through outreach from the school system, but kids learning about that is super helpful, too. We, right now, focus on energy savings in terms of lighting in the building and trash and recycling and things like that. But I think there’re lots of opportunities for the kids to understand and learn about light bulbs and different types of energy. I think it fits really nicely into many of the grade-level science curriculums. Just learning about the different types of energy we use in Maryland alone was super neat for me to learn about.

Are there plans to adopt any of the things you learned from the QHEC at the school?

PD: I plan to share with the SERT about the light bulb usage. Our building service manager at the school is our SERT coordinator and he’s going out to a conference through the state of Maryland this spring to learn more about what we can share with our students and staff.

For more information about scheduling a QHEC, log onto https://mygreenmontgomery.org/project/schedule-a-quick-home-energy-checkup/

 



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