Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Virtual Energy Audits Helping MLGW Customers Cope


Sitting at his dining room table, MLGW HERS certified Energy Technician David Wright punched in the cell phone number of a homeowner who sought an energy audit.

After introductions Wright asked, “Do you have an iPhone?”

“I do,” replied Bartlett homeowner Darlene Metcalf.

“Is it possible that I can FaceTime you?”

“Sure can,” she said.

That was the start of a 20-minute virtual energy audit.

“We’re meeting people where they are,” explained Margie Borrum-Smith, manager of MLGW’s Energy Services. “It doesn’t matter what kind of phone they have.” Since mid-March, the department has conducted over 300 virtual energy audits with customers.

Once the technicians return to the office, Wright said they’ll be following up with the customers.

So far, the technicians have caught gas leaks, water leaks and loose duct work cooling the attic instead of the home.  “When you call the homeowners, you’re like a knight in shining armor,” Wright said.

Wright suggested that one homeowner check his upstairs water heater and the drain pan attached to a PVC pipe leading outside his home. He said, ‘I’ve got a pond out here.’ His water heater was leaking,” Wright said. “A lot of times, it will be simple stuff causing major problems like a dirty air filter or water constantly running from a toilet.”

Sherry Bougard knew something was wrong because her utility bills were too high for a vacant home she was renovating for her non-profit group, Be Tru Awareness Outreach, which helps victims of domestic violence.

She drove over to the house to check on the contractor’s work. Bougard felt fine when she arrived, but she started getting lightheaded and sick after being inside the house for 15 minutes.

She had already made arrangements for a virtual energy audit that day. The technician asked, “Do you think it’s a gas leak? Go outside and let me see your gas meter. Now put the cell phone camera close to the meter.”

The flow indicator valve on the gas meter was spinning. The technician told her: “You have a gas leak. Stay out of the house.”

The HERS certified energy technician called the MLGW emergency line immediately, and a MLGW customer service technician found a leak in the gas burning fireplace. He turned off the gas, and Bougard hired a plumber to cap it off. “It ended up being a great success,” she said. “It could have been much more detrimental.”

 “As more MLGW customers seek the safety of a virtual home audit,” Borrum-Smith said, “technicians will be able to engage more customers in understanding energy consumption on their utility bills.”

Regarding Metcalf who Wright FaceTimed, Wright recommended adding blinds or thermal drapes to her windows to make her home more energy efficient. Already, she had changed her air filters, fixed a leaky toilet and had her HVAC inspected annually. “She was doing everything right,” he said.

If a homeowner or renter wants a virtual energy audit, call (901) 528-4188 or go online to mlgw.com/energydr.

1 comment:

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