Oct 13 , 2009
You never know when some message or note will click with you, forcing you to realize that all those energy efficiency hints actually apply to you. I had my own revelation last week when I saw just how nasty my furnace filter was and how much money it was costing me by making it harder for my furnace to heat the house.

Given, my own issues, I’ve got to give some props to Real Estate Agent Brandon Marchand at www.spokanehomeguy.com/blog. After reviewing some info provided by Avista, he wrote on his blog, “I did the math – my home office costs me about $150.00 per year in unseen energy costs . . .”   Check out the blog post here.
 
You never know what's going to click with you. Every little bit adds up to real costs. Find out what a typical office, or home office might be costing you here.
 
Published: 10/13/2009  10:30 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 12 , 2009
In Sunday’s Spokesman-Review, Avista was recognized for its efforts to converse with customers on twitter in reporter Tom Sowa’s article, “Businesses dip toes into online networking pools.”

I’m very pleased that our social media practices were included in the article. It’s been great to talk to customers over the last few months on twitter (despite of the brevity required of the medium). I hope you all will continue to check out our posts.

Here’s a note I wrote on the blog on July 17.

“Twitter is a free service that has taken the Internet and mobile phones by storm over the last year or so. It allows users to follow selected “tweeters” or users and post 140-character messages about just about anything. If you’re not using twitter, you’re not alone and I bet you think it’s weird. Fair enough and I’m not here to convert you.

But if you are using the service, please sign up to follow @Dan_at_Avista. I tweet about our blog posts, interesting happenings at the company and the energy industry. And you might find a little personal info too. I might be a company spokesperson, but the weekends are mine! (Most of the time).”

I’ll continue to talk with customers on twitter, so feel free to send me a message, just make sure to include “@Dan_at_Avista” or “Avista” to make sure I see it.

You may also be interested to follow @AvistaCares, a twitter account focused on concerns of Avista’s low-income and senior customers along with their care givers.

See you in the twitosphere.
 
Published: 10/12/2009  4:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 09 , 2009
My gas meter
My gas meter and new concrete work.
Close up of valve

A close up of the uncovered valve.

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
So, a funny thing happened to me this week. Dan_at_Avista, the guy who talks about Avista online, became Dan – the Avista troubled gas customer. Let me say first, that everything turned out great, but had some knowledgeable employees not inspected my gas meter, I could have been in a world of hurt.

It turns out that six years ago when we built our house (years before I ever worked for Avista), the concrete crew that poured the path around my garage to the backyard made a pretty big mistake. My natural gas meter is attached to the side of my garage, right on the paved sidewalk. Unbeknownst to me they paved right over the lower shutoff valve. I had no idea this was covered, since I’m no gas meter expert and I’d never had any problems or the need to shut off gas to my house.

 
As you can see from the pictures, if you didn’t know the valve was buried, you’d never know it was there. Full disclosure: there is another shutoff valve on the top of the meter that feeds into the house, so had an emergency occurred and the fire department or Avista needed to shut off service to the house, they could have. But I’d certainly rather have every option available.

A few weeks back, during a routine inspection of meters, Avista noticed the issue and created a service order to have it fixed. A Customer Project Coordinator checked it out Tuesday, left a detailed door hanger, business card and called and left me a message explaining the safety situation and that he was scheduling a crew to cut out the concrete under the meter to free up the valve in the next day or so.

I got a call yesterday from the crew on site, letting me know they were going to shutoff my gas service to perform the concrete cuts. They wanted to know when it was convenient for me to have a Gas Serviceman return to my house and re-light my appliances. They scheduled the re-light for a little after the time I usually get home.

So, when I got home last night I called our customer service department to double check that I was scheduled for a re-light that night. Indeed I was, and the serviceman was on his way. Sure enough, about 3 minutes after I got off the phone, my co-worker showed up.

After explaining to me what work had been done at the meter he came inside and re-lit my furnace and water heater. Unfortunately, I did get a stern look when he pulled out my air filter, that hadn’t been changed in a few months. “This is costing you money,” he said. Plugged/dirty air filters make your system work harder to heat the home – information I already knew, but had ignored in my laziness. (I’ll be picking up some new filters on the way home tonight, promise.)

In the end, I’ve learned a few things over the last three days. First, the Avista customer service that we talk about so much is alive and well. There’s no flag on my account that says “be nice to this one because he’s an employee,” this is how we treat everyone. Second, I was impressed with how quickly this issue was fixed once it was discovered. And finally, I need to keep better track of when to swap out my furnace filter. 

Do you have a good Avista story you can share? Drop me a note in the comments section.
Published: 10/9/2009  3:03 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 09 , 2009
There’s no better way to celebrate October as Energy Awareness Month than to prepare your home for the cold weather ahead with Avista’s easy low and no cost tips. A few simple changes around the house can make a difference in the amount of energy you use this fall and winter.

-Replace your furnace filter once a month. Dirty filters block air flow and make your system work harder. Consider having your furnace “tuned up” by a professional. A cleaned, lubricated and adjusted furnace runs most efficiently and uses less energy.

-Set your thermostat to the lowest possible setting, recommended temperatures are 62 - 65 degrees at night or when you are away, and 68 - 70 degrees during the day when you’re home. Put an extra blanket on the bed and wear an extra layer of clothing instead of turning up the thermostat. A programmable thermostat will help regulate the temperature so you don’t have to remember. Do not set back your programmable thermostat during the heating season if you have a heat pump. If you do, it may bring on more costly resistive electric heat when changing from night or unoccupied settings to occupied settings.

-Use weather stripping around doors, windows and foundation to seal gaps where heat could escape. Consider installing door sweeps to keep warm air from leaking under doors.

-Insulate the floor of your attic.  Use at least 12 inches of fiberglass insulation and consider adding insulation in unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces too.

-Set your water heater to the “normal” setting or 120-degrees Fahrenheit. Your hot water heater won’t have to work as hard and won’t cost you as much to operate. Also consider insulating the hot water pipe coming out of your water heater for extra energy savings.

-Open window coverings, especially on south facing windows, during the day to let the sun warm your rooms. Close window coverings at night and in rooms that don’t get sunlight.

Every little bit counts when it comes to energy efficiency. More energy savings tips and information on Avista’s energy efficiency rebates and incentives for residential, commercial and industrial customers are available at www.everylittlebit.com, where you’ll also find information on federal energy tax credits.
Published: 10/9/2009  10:35 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 08 , 2009
October Energy Awareness Month
It’s true; you probably go through your day and use electricity or natural gas and never really think about it. Yet, if you’re reading this right now, you’re using electricity from somewhere (and if you’re not, call me, we need to talk about your magical electricity-free computer).

So, it stands to reason that there is a month designated to think about this stuff. Since President George W. Bush proclaimed October as Energy Awareness Month in 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy has been actively observing this month to promote the wise use of energy throughout the nation. The theme for 2009 is “A Sustainable Energy Future; Putting All the Pieces Together.”

Avista is no stranger to energy efficiency, energy conservation, and sustainability. We’ve been providing clean, renewable energy for more than a century now, and today we have one of the lowest carbon footprints of all utilities in the United States.

In addition, Avista has been actively promoting energy efficiency for the last 30 years by providing energy efficiency rebates and incentives, and by providing customers with information on the wise use of energy.  If you are looking for some information to get you started, check out the links below.
 
Published: 10/8/2009  9:25 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 06 , 2009
Use the carbon calculator
I found out yesterday that I won an employee “eco-basket” for taking Avista’s carbon calculator on our website. They randomly drew five names of employees who found out what their family carbon footprint is by using the calculator. The eco-basket contains some cool eco-friendly stuff printed on recycled paper, Buck-a-Block T-Shirt (which was a medium, so that goes to my wife) and some snacks. Cool stuff.

In August, when I took the calculator, I wrote a blog post about it, “What’s your carbon footprint? Use Avista’s calculator and find out.” The calculator is still up on the site and certainly worth the five minutes it takes to participate. Give it a shot and learn something about your footprint.

There are many carbon calculators available online, but this one automatically pulls in your household energy usage, so you don’t have to do the math. It’s also calibrated for Avista’s unique energy mix. Avista is one of the greenest utilities in the nation, so it makes sense to have the specifics for our generation in your calculation. Other calculators are good, but use general information since all utilities and lifestyles differ.

Discover your carbon footprint, click here and use the calculator.
Published: 10/6/2009  8:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 02 , 2009
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of attending the rededication of the Noxon Rapids Dam in Montana – 50 years after it first started cranking out renewable hydroelectric power. The dam is an important piece of Avista’s electric generation – providing 548.4 megawatts. That’s enough power for about 411,000 homes for comparison sake.

But the ceremony was more than what the power provided means. It was about Sanders County and its people. The dam certainly changed the face of the county half a century ago. It brought jobs, schools, a doubling of the population and it undeniably changed the environment on the Clark Fork River. This is why the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement was also celebrated yesterday. About 10 years ago, the agreement was signed for managing and protecting the natural resources associated with the hydro project.

As many speakers noted during the day, the settlement agreement wasn’t easy. It was really the first of its kind to bring in multiple stakeholders as a team to figure out what’s best for the surrounding environment. The money that is usually spent on lawyers and litigation during the long relicensing of dams, could now be spent on the work needed to be done to help mitigate any environmental impacts.

It took trust and faith that Avista would follow through on its promises. Looking back 10 years later, the agreement is a standout success, as speakers from environmental groups, local tribes and government agencies attested. It’s a living relicense that is monitored constantly – the work continues today.  You can learn more about the agreement here.

Not to get “all touchy feely,” but yesterday really made me proud of my company and co-workers. It was a great day.

In the news
Today in the Missoulian, reporter Vince Devlin wrote a really great article, "Celebrating consensus: Noxon Rapids Dam commemorates 50th anniversary" about the Noxon events and even interviewed some the attendees during a tour of the dam. I’d really recommend taking a look at it
Published: 10/2/2009  9:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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