Consert Pilot Program
BLUEBONNET FAMILIES, BUSINESSES BEGIN PILOT:
TESTING NEW, MONEY SAVING TECHNOLOGY
Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative members are testing new technology designed to lower their monthly energy bills.
Bluebonnet and Consert Inc., a North Carolina-based company that develops high-tech energy management systems, teamed up to sponsor the year-long pilot project. The goal is to find the strengths and weaknesses of an energy software program officials believe can save co-op members money, said Matt Bentke, Bluebonnet’s chief operating officer.
Participants in similar trials in North Carolina saved 15 to 20 percent, with some achieving savings as high as 40 percent. The eight- and 12-month-long trials with Fayetteville Public Works Commission and Wake Electric Membership Corporation started in 2009 and included 200 residences and small businesses.
Half of the Bluebonnet members who volunteered for the pilot project live in the Tahitian Village subdivision in Bastrop. The other half are scattered throughout the co-op’s 14-county service area. All agreed to have new, sophisticated electric meters and control devices installed in December 2010 and January 2011. The devices are monitoring some of their most power-hungry appliances — including air conditioning and heating units and water heaters.
The devices allow the members to control their thermostats and appliances from any computer with Internet access and manage their electric loads by adjusting thermostats and turning off appliances when not being used. Bluebonnet’s control center employees have the ability to remotely adjust participants' thermostats and appliances and they will occasionally test that capability.
“We want to make sure the software and equipment is effective,” Bentke said of the pilot program. “We will study the results, see how members respond to the technology and find out if our members are satisfied with the results.”
Homeowners John and Dianne Haneke, of Manor, and businesswoman Carmel Zea, of Lockhart, are three Bluebonnet members participating in the Consert Inc. pilot program. Bluebonnet will monitor their experiences through 2011, and report the findings, as they help the co-op test this new technology.
John and Dianne Haneke are conservation-minded retirees who live on 8 tidy acres on mostly rural Johnson Road in Manor. They share their home with their daughter, Julie Haneke, a Manor High School math teacher and coach, and her 7-year-old son, Ty Thornton. The electric bill is their largest monthly expense and the couple is eager to learn about steps they can take to reduce energy costs.
“We are always looking to improve energy consumption,” Dianne said.“The other factor is being retired. We are trying to be energy-efficient and keep our layout of funds down because our retirement income is not increasing.”
Home size: 2,300-square-foot manufactured home, four bedrooms, three baths and a barn
Appliances: Two heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; two electric water heaters; swimming pool pump; hot tub
When occupied: Someone is home most of the time. John and Dianne take their motor home on the road three to four months in the summer, but Julie and Ty stay home.
Electric bill: Ranges from $240 to $390 a month
Bad habits: Ty sometimes leaves the French door, which leads to the back porch, open.
Power-saving steps: Well-insulated home with energy-efficient windows and doors, ceiling fans and compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Programmable pump on swimming pool. Thermostat set at 80 degrees in the summer when no one is at home, 68 degrees during the winter.
Pets: Two horses, Roanie and Willie; one dog, Maggie; and one cat, Kitty
Carmel Zea is from Lockhart by way of Ireland. She built and opened Lockhart Montessori School on Westwood Road five years ago and strives to be as energy-efficient as possible. The school was built by Tilson Homes and Zea made sure to install good insulation and the most energy-efficient windows she could afford. Conservation is important in Carmel’s life, both personally and professionally. She even requires her students to recycle at school. While her electric bills already are small, she signed up for the pilot program to see if there’s anything else she can do to save. “We can always do better,” said Zea.
Business size: 1,800-square-foot building on 7 acres. She is adding 500-600 square feet soon.
Appliances: One HVAC system, one electric water heater
When occupied: 7 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. weekdays, 4 hours on weekends
Electric bill: Ranges from $49 to $166 a month
Who is there: 30 people, including three teachers and 27 children ages 3-8
Bad habits: Occasionally a closet or room light is left on overnight.
Power-saving steps: Well-insulated building with energy-efficient windows. Most bulbs are CFL. Thermostat set at 71-72 in winter, 79-80 in the summer. When possible, windows and doors are opened and they always open enough to create a cross draft.
Pets: Fish – 6 platys
For more information about the pilot program, click here.
Click here to keep up with the Hanekes and Carmel Zea.