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Illinois homes are energy hogs

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 6:45 a.m. CDT

DECATUR (MCT) - A new report finds consumers in Central Illinois and throughout the state are paying through the nose on power bills because their homes are energy hogs.

Illinois homes tend to be older and larger than the national average, and far less efficient. In fact, they are so bad they are burning 44 percent more energy a year than homes in other states. But energy experts say Illinoisans could cut their electric and natural gas bills by more than $36 million a year just by taking advantage of money-saving programs already offered by utilities such as Ameren Illinois.

The new report "Energy Efficiency Potential in the Land of Lincoln" was compiled by the federal Energy Information Administration, and its results were shared Monday in Decatur by the Citizens Utility Board, a public utility watchdog group.

CUB spends much of its time battling utilities over how much they want to charge, but it says consumers already are for ways to save big money through a small, state-mandated fee on their monthly power bills. This energy efficiency charge underwrites the cost of utility-administered savings plans that provide discounts and rebates on everything from energy-efficient light bulbs to new furnaces and air conditioning units and insulation.

Bryan McDaniel, CUB director of governmental affairs, said 60 percent of households now use energy-efficient lighting, but that means 40 percent are still burning the highly inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

"They might as well just be putting their money in a pile in the street and burning it," McDaniel said. "Changing a light bulb is easy to do, and the new ones are so much more efficient."

With so many energy-savings programs, CUB is trying to illuminate the way for families and businesses with a new efficiency guide available at www.CitizensUtilityBoard. org or by calling 1-800-669-5556.

"It's not about forcing you to take drastic measures -- like wearing your winter coat to bed," said David Kolata, CUB's executive director. "These programs offer simple ways to cut costs and improve comfort in your home. They're just the tip of the iceberg of what consumers will be able to enjoy in the coming years."

Kolata said plans by utilities to install more than 4 million digital "smart meters" over the next decade offer the potential to "revolutionize" savings by offering consumers new ways to monitor and control their power usage.

(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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