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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 16, 2010
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

PUC commissioners roll up sleeves for energy efficiency

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota's three public utilities commissioners pulled out their toolboxes and got to work for the sake of energy efficiency today in Brookings. PUC commissioners Dusty Johnson, Steve Kolbeck and Gary Hanson participated in an energy-efficiency work project at the home of Kevin and Kelly Nelson on April 16. The Nelsons are representing South Dakota in the 30-60-90 Day Challenge, a national contest to determine which participant can conserve the most energy during a three-month period, which began in April.

The work team swapped high-energy-use incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights, insulated the water heater, added caulk around windows and installed a barrier around a leaking window well. The toolkit with the energy efficiency products was provided to the Nelsons by the contest host.

"The projects we completed are going to save the Nelsons money," stated PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "Just changing their lights to CFLs will save about $36 over the bulb's lifetime," Johnson said.

Earlier this month, Brookings-based BTU Engineering donated their services to perform an energy audit at the Nelson home. The audit team used diagnostic tools to identify areas to improve. A blower door test measured the amount of air leakage and an infrared camera pinpointed areas of heat loss.

"The energy auditors used some pretty cool tools to analyze where we should focus our attention," said PUC Commissioner Steve Kolbeck. "However, any homeowner can conduct their own energy audit just by walking through their home with a checklist. Electrical outlets, switch plates and window frames are common places to check for air leaks," he suggested.

Steps for conducting a home energy audit are outlined on the South Dakota Energy Smart Web site, South Dakota Energy Smart is a statewide initiative supported by the PUC and the state's energy providers that promotes energy efficiency. The Web site contains information on energy-saving solutions for homeowners and information about energy efficiency programs offered by local utility companies.

"Making energy-efficient home improvements really is worth the investment," said PUC Commissioner Gary Hanson "Typically, about 40 percent of a home's energy bill is for heating and cooling. To save on utility bills, be sure your systems are working as efficiently as possible. That means regular maintenance, like changing filters monthly and insulating ducts or pipes that travel through unheated spaces," Hanson said.

The 30-60-90 Day Challenge was launched by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners as a program within the organization's Anybody Can Serve, So Let's Conserve campaign. The goal is to motivate Americans to become more energy efficient. The winner of the 30-60-90 Day Challenge will receive payment of their utility bills for April, May and June. The Nelsons and other participants will blog about their experience throughout the challenge at

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MEDIA NOTE: Download photos of the 30-60-90 Day Challenge work day at the Nelson home in Brookings, S.D., at        

BROADCASTER NOTE: Mr. Nelson's first name is pronounced Kee-vin.