Question: SCE&G does free audits so why hire Eco-Cents?                                 Answer: Eco-Cents provides additional insight that you’re missing out on with the free audit.  Similar to Eco-Cents, the utility company visually inspects your heating and cooling equipment (to include filters and ductwork), your water heater, seals around doors and windows, refrigerators, and pumps; however, unlike Eco-Cents they ignore the smaller components of consumption that collectively account for 30-40% of electricity usage (and associated potential for low cost/no-cost savings).  Also, recommendations for improving HVAC efficiency provided by SCE&G are already provided for free (in detail) on the Eco-Cents website and other government websites (see links page). 

Question: Which monitoring devices do you recommend?                                Answer: As with all tools, select the appropriate one for the job and remember that quality is not always an indication of price.  My tool of choice is the $30 kill-a-watt meter.  Coupled with the ability to take notes and the patience to periodically read your utility meter, this approach yields the same information as a $200-$500 energy detective unit for everything except 220V appliances.  Free online software also exists, but I don’t recommend that approach for your home because it relies on generic consumption rates for appliances as well as may not capture the full extent of devices that feed off your meter, leaving you with a distorted and perhaps even misleading picture of your consumption habits.  For large-scale projects sophisticated monitoring devices have merit, but for small-scale applications they are not necessary. 

Question: Do other home audit companies charge as much?                          Answer: Eco-Cents rates are compatible with other reputable for-hire energy audit companies in the Charleston area.  For example, the Sustainability Institute charges $50/hr and estimates the duration of audits for most homes to be about two hours.  That estimate of on-site inspection time is comparable to the time of on-site inspection estimated by Eco-Cents; however, for that price the Sustainability Institute also only provides you with a verbal report.  In contrast, half of the ‘energy’ associated with an Eco-Cents audit is in the generation of a comprehensive report that is written after the data collected during the on-site inspection have been thoroughly analyzed. 

Question: Why did you provide links to your competitors?                                    Answer:  I want to make it easy for the customer to see what really sets Eco-Cents apart, notably that few companies other than Eco-Cents place equal emphasis on putting you in touch with your consumptive habits as on fixing the draftiness of your home.  Also, Eco-Cents doesn’t view other companies as competitors as much as they are partners in the same quest to reduce consumption across the board, and there is more than enough business to go around.  For example, based on the number of homes in Charleston County from the 2000 Census, 20 energy audit companies could each service one home every weekday for more than 30 years. 

Question: You would rather save the planet than make a buck?                            Answer: First of all, sustainability is not nearly as much about saving the planet (that fate ultimately lies in the cosmos) as it is about preserving our modern lifestyles for future generations.  Do you like your I-pod?  Would you like your grandchildren to be able to use their cell phone in a 50G network?  Energy makes that possible, and when the non-renewable sources are gone, they’re gone!

Question: Your actions are commendable, but are they practical?                    Answer:  Yes, but only once people open their mind to the ideas that I have presented, as well as hopefully add their own ideas into the mix, too.  I firmly believe that a body in motion stays in motion (and that unfortunately a body rest also remains at rest).  I’ve experienced that myself.  For as long as I can remember I have been recycling, but it has only been recently that I recognized the need to reduce, reuse and then recycle. Once that ball started rolling and I saw how big of an impact we are really having and how easily we could alter our course, further action just seemed like the logical next step.

Question: Do you support making plastic bags illegal?                                         Answer: We live in a free society and I cherish that.  And I think most people prefer fewer rules and restrictions; however, when individual actions infringe upon the common good I appreciate the need for regulation.  To answer your specific question about plastic bags, yes, it would please me if we phased them out.  But laws alone aren’t the answer because laws are broken every day.  Real change comes from making people believe in viable alternatives.  And that’s the essence of Eco-Cents: positive reinforcement.  Stricter regulations are inevitable as our resources dwindle, but imposing them is the domain of elected officials.  I just got an early start because I was tired of being part of the problem and because I prefer to be prepared when additional rules come into play in order to make that transition as seamless as possible.

Got another Question for Eco-Cents?  Post it here and we’ll respond online.