In Search of the Missing Dollar

This post is written by Tiffany Welch who is serving with The Commission on Economic Opportunity in Wilkes-Barre, PA.


Have you ever pulled every pocket inside out in every pair of jeans you own? Searched under your bed three separate times in hopes of a different result? Braved the hand swipe between the I’m-glad-I-can’t-see-what-I’m-feeling cracks in your couch cushions? All of this madness in search of one more dollar or four more quarters because you just paid off your bothersome bills and realized your fridge is empty.  Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, and many people are still there today with current unemployment rates and rising electricity prices.


Energy Corps Members Tiffany Welch (l) and Whitney Fenton (r) discuss their daily plans with past member King Adjei-Frimpong (c) at the Commission on Economic Opportunity

After years of loose change hunting and extensive research, I have finally discovered that the best place to find a hidden dollar is simply by never needing it in the first place. “What’s that you say?” Yes folks, all we need to do is find creative ways to lower the bills we actually have control over and that hidden dollar will be sitting in your bank account right where it belongs! As an Energy Corps member at the Commission on Economic Opportunity I have had the pleasure of working with like-minded individuals in an attempt to identify simple, everyday tricks that have the potential to reduce residential energy use (specifically electricity) resulting in lower utility bills and fatter wallets. We then share our discoveries with low income households that might want to use that extra dollar for some of life’s other necessities.

As a recent college graduate, I could recite the periodic table and calculate the speed of a 10 in. diameter cotton ball falling from a 20 story building, but I could not tell you which appliance in my home was using the most electricity or costing the most money. Others may find themselves in similar situations in that they simply lack the basic knowledge necessary to make financially beneficial decisions based on energy use in the home. So in an indirect effort to create awareness and spark a flame, we not only share energy saving tips with our clients, but we also provide them with a new technology called an Energy Information Display.

The Energy Information Display (EID) is installed directly into the breaker box to “read” how much electricity is flowing into the home at any given time. That data is then wirelessly transmitted to a personal display (much like a digital thermostat) that provides a real time reading of exactly how many watts of electricity are being consumed to supply the power to everything that is turned on or running. This real time feedback technology allows the client to see how electricity use is distributed throughout their home by providing a general idea of about how much electricity each appliance consumes. The client is now equipped with the tools necessary to make informed decisions, create a more energy efficient home and live an energy conservative lifestyle, if they so choose.


Ray opens the panel box to install the EID

My nine month journey with this device has been quite interesting to say the least. Some clients are extremely receptive to the new feedback technology and, I dare say, even excited! But the remaining skeptics are not thrilled at the prospect of changing the energy use habits they have grown so accustomed to in life. It’s not easy to encourage sustainable behavior changes, but luckily I let the EID do most of the talking. As soon as I begin to turn on everyday appliances that produce an immediate visual response in energy use and cost on the display, the CFL above their head finally goes off. These simple appliances we love to use somewhat ritualistically on a daily basis are actually eating up our dollars the longer we leave them on. We of course already knew this to be true, but actually seeing the truth on a screen brings about a whole new perspective and sheds light onto the bigger picture. It becomes such a delight to watch the realization appear on their faces just as it did on mine once I began to immerse myself in the wonderful world of energy efficiency.

I may not be able to help my client find their lost keys, but I hope that my experience as an Energy Corps member has helped at least one client find that missing dollar.

For further information see

Energy Corps Blog : CEO Member Explore the Unknown

Tiffany Welch is a recent graduate with a B.S. degree in Agriculture with a focus in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Management. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps/EnergyCorps member with the Commission on Economic Opportunity Weatherization Department as an Energy Efficiency Educator, providing energy conservation education to low income families coupled with the installation of an In-Home Electricity Display in an effort to reduce energy use and lower utility bills.
She hopes to eventually pursue a career relating to Corporate Sustainability or Sustainable Supply Chain Management.

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