Duke Energy Progress wants to give you a water-saving shower head, faucet aerators and insulation for your pipes.
The company, which provides electric service for the Triangle as a subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, is currently sending out mailers to residential customers in the area and offering the free water saver kits. It expects to send more than 400,000 mailers this year.
The kits are valued at $25, and are intended to reduce water heating costs for households that use electric water heaters. The offer isn’t exactly free, however. The cost is passed along to all customers, raising a typical residential bill by 32 cents a year.
The utility, which has long offered customers incentives to save energy, expanded to water conservation in 2015, following the example of Duke Energy Carolinas.
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To date, Duke has distributed 38,000 water saver kits, according to an update filed this month with the N.C. Utilities Commission. According to an estimate provided to the commission, however, many of the customers who receive the products never use them. For example, only 25 percent installed the aerators, while 62 percent installed the low-flow shower heads.
Such programs don’t require 100 percent participation to be considered successful, said James McLawhorn, who heads the Electric Division of the N.C. Public Staff agency. The Public Staff, which represents utility customers in rate cases and other matters before the Utilities Commission, supported Duke’s water conservation program when it was approved in 2014.
“You know there’s going to be only certain people who take advantage,” McLawhorn said. “It has to prove cost-effective in spite of that.”
Customers who request the kits must submit a form and check off a box that says they have an electric water heater and they will install the new fixtures at their address only.
Duke has said the program would cost $3.5 million in its first four years and would save $14.2 million in electricity over the life of the program.
The purpose of energy efficiency programs is to offset power use so that the electric company doesn’t have to build additional power plants to meet customer demand. Such programs are free to the utility, because it passes on the costs to its customers. But those costs are lower than the costs that customers would otherwise pay for Duke buying electricity on the wholesale market or building more power plants.
Duke spokeswoman Grace Rountree said an average household could save 500 kilowatt hours a year by installing the water saver kit. That represents about two weeks of electricity used by a typical Duke residential customer.