BROOKSVILLE — As many as 650 homes in Brooksville are targeted to receive up to $250 worth of energy-efficient upgrades free from their power supplier, Progress Energy Florida.
The utility's fifth such program in west-central Florida was launched Friday. Some 60 customers turned out at the Frederick Kelly Elks Lodge on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to hear about what sounds almost too good to be true: devices at no cost to them that are estimated to cut their power bills by as much as $150 a year — a win-win situation.
After a walk-through inspection of their homes, energy technicians will offer:
• Water-saving showerheads with an on-off switch for pausing.
• Water spigot aerators that increase air pressure as a washing aid so less water is used.
• A year's supply of air filters for air-conditioner vents, increasing the unit's cooling efficiency when changed monthly.
• An outdoor air-conditioner cover.
• Five compact fluorescent light bulbs that reduce energy consumption by 75 percent.
• An insulating blanket for the water heater.
• Weather stripping for doors and windows.
• A cleaning brush for refrigerator coils.
• Demonstrations and information on how to keep these aids working.
Brooksville was targeted through census data and the state Department of Community Affairs because its low-income residents could benefit, said Progress Energy spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs.
"We're one of the few companies that tries to have customers use less of its product," Jacobs said.
Added John Masiello, director of demand management and strategy, "Progress is happy when we use energy efficiently.
"We'll need 25 percent more energy in the next 10 years,'' he said. "In the last 25 years, (our programs) have saved enough energy to power the city of Orlando for two years."
The company's 1.7-million Florida customers have saved $870-million in that period, he said.
Bridget Taylor, 41, who lives on School Street, liked what she read in the bundle of information mailed to the 650 homes in advance of Friday's presentation. She lives in a one-story, three-bedroom, one-bath brick home with her 17-year-old son, Reshawn Smith. Her electric bill runs $180 a month.
"Basically, my home is pretty efficient," she said, adding that she sets the thermostat at 77 degrees.
The technicians pretty much agreed with her. They installed a water-saving showerhead, placed a thermometer in the refrigerator and cleaned the refrigerator coils, a chore Taylor admitted she doesn't tend to.
Said field service technician Bill Sprovach, "They don't realize what's under there. People don't think about it: Out of sight, out of mind." Dust, he pointed out, impairs the coils' ability to dissipate heat, so the refrigerator must run more. "They don't realize how much money they can save." Sprovach, leaving the brush for Taylor, advised her to use it once a month.
Inspection of the Taylor home showed windows and doors tightly sealed against air leakage, the water heater foam packed and hot water pipes wrapped.
Sprovach and his team partner, wearing readily identifiable bright green T-shirts, moved on to the next house. They and three other teams will canvass the neighborhood with their expertise and products over the next seven weeks.
Brooksville Vice Mayor Frankie Burnett urged the residents to take part. He noted that scam artists had targeted the area in the past, but he's researched the Neighborhood Energy Saving Program. "It is a good program," he said. "It's not a program where they do some things and then take your house."
Wanda Washington-Black, 45, said one of the rooms in her three-bedroom home on S Lemon Street needs to be insulated. Her electric bill runs more than $200 a month. "That's why I need to be here," she said.
Vera Richardson, 89, was pleased to hear a technician will come to her S Broad Street home and dial down the temperature on her water heater. "It's hot, hot, hot," she said with a shake of her head. "I don't need it that hot." The adjustment should reduce her monthly electric bill of $178 for her double-wide mobile home.
Annie Washington, 68, will welcome the energy technicians to her Shayne Street home. She has no insulation on her water heater, no weather stripping on doorways and window frames. She wants to chop away at her $500 monthly energy bill for a three-bedroom home with four residents.
The program got an endorsement from Brenda Mobley, weatherization program director for Mid-Florida Community Services. "We use a lot of these things," she said of the energy savers. "When they come into your home, accept these things."
County Commission Chairman Chris Kinglsey urged participation, saying, "When you benefit, I think our community benefits."
Beth Gray can be reached at email@example.com.