By Brad Stager
Since Hillsborough County was recognized for its environmental stewardship with a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council last year, the county’s sustainability team has continued to build on that success by informing residents about energy conservation through public outreach.
“Sustainability is something the county sees as very important,” said Hillsborough’s sustainability manager, Sheila McNamara, who added that it should be of importance to individual residents as well. “The impact of personal habits is huge.”
During a recent public online webinar, residents had a chance to learn about ways to be more efficient in using electricity and options for getting help in paying a utility bill when circumstances make that necessary.
While the county’s LEED award reflects in part major infrastructure efforts, such as installing solar power and LED lighting in buildings, parking lots and parks, Eric Pyzowski, Hillsborough County’s energy manager, said achieving significant energy efficiency begins with small actions by individuals, such as adjusting thermostats and weatherizing buildings.
“These little steps, adding up, will have an impact,” he said.
Resources presented in the webinar, which was hosted by McNamara, Pyzowski and Lee Strobeck of TECO, include Hillsborough Solar Co-op, which is geared toward groups of people interested in installing solar power on their properties. A financial benefit comes from group pricing available when neighbors collectively sign up for the program. The energy cooperative is expected to reopen for signups in the spring of 2022.
Improving the energy efficiency and habitability of homes is supported through loans that the county’s Department of Affordable Housing can help residents apply for. State of Florida weatherization and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rehab funds are also available to homeowners.
Air cooling and water heating are major uses of energy by Hillsborough County residents, according to Strobeck, who works in TECO’s energy management services. He recommends setting thermostats at 78 degrees or higher for cooling and 68 degrees or lower for heating, as well as using low-flow shower heads to save hot water. Strobeck also encourages participating in a home energy audit and the utility’s energy planner program that takes advantage of lower nonpeak usage rates.
For more information, visit the sustainability section of the county’s website at hcflgov.net, and utility-related information can be found at tampaelectric.com.