This article was originally published in the September/October 1994 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.



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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1994

Eugene's Energy Outlet

To help residential and business customers make better energy choices, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the public utilities of Lane County, Oregon, have established an electricity conservation information center in Eugene. The Energy Outlet, a 1,500 ft2 store on a downtown mall, supplies information on energy-efficient products and programs.

Visitors can learn about availability and efficiency of energy-related products, comparative data on competing items, and which stores carry these products. Computer workstations are available, letting energy consumers look up products, use on-line resources, or do energy modeling for a building. In addition, the center has a browsing library, complete with viewing station and tapes on energy-saving topics.

It's totally unpredictable what kind of questions come through the door, says Barbara Shaw, the Energy Outlet's manager. Questions range from What are those funny looking lightbulbs in the window? to I live 40 miles out, how do I create a home power system? to What kind of clothes dryer should I buy?

One couple was designing a passive solar home. The customers planned several south-facing windows and an insulated slab, but completely overlooked summer shading. With a little advice from the Energy Outlet they probably avoided expensive retrofits later while gaining a more comfortable home.

The center features permanent displays of efficient appliances and lighting, along with other exhibits which change regularly. A model home displays energy-saving fixtures for the kitchen, bath, and laundry, and includes a cut away design to highlight weatherization measures for walls, windows, ceilings, and floors. There's useful information for people designing new houses, as well as those wanting to operate existing homes more efficiently. Visitors can also find out which appliances qualify for utility rebate programs, and where to find them. Energy Outlet staff will also answer questions over the phone.

BPA and the local utilities hope the Energy Outlet will increase visibility and availability of energy-efficient products. They encourage local businesses that sell appliances and lighting to carry and promote energy-efficient items, and even to loan examples of their most efficient products for public display at the center.

The Energy Outlet requires companies who wish to display their products to fill out an application with product specifications and technical data. A committee of utility personnel reviews the applications, considering only the energy aspects of the products. The center provides brand names of appliances to visitors, making commercial product literature from the manufacturers available with a disclaimer.

There is no charge for use of the Energy Outlet, which does not sell anything and strives to be neutral when it comes to promoting specific products. Since it opened in April, several hundred people have visited the center. The utilities sponsoring the Energy Outlet are Blachly-Lane Electric Cooperative, Emerald People's Utility District, Eugene Water and Electric Board, the Springfield Utility Board as well as BPA.

-- Jeanne Byrne


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