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Pausing from Duke criticism for a moment to celebrate free stuff they just gave me

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

There’s a lot of hating on Duke Energy going on in Florida. That’s because the energy giant continues to put ratepayers on the hook for two nuclear projects that will never happen.

Considering that amount is to the tune of $3.2 billion, it’s safe to say Duke is an easy target for critics.

But here’s the deal: they just gave me a crap ton of free stuff. So, for at least a bit, I’m pretty happy with Duke Energy.

Duke has a Neighborhood Energy Saver Program available in select neighborhoods. As part of the program a team of Duke Energy contractors comes in and replaces light bulbs with the energy-efficient light bulbs -– those little squiggly guys. They change out air-conditioning filters, install weather-stripping or door sweeps, caulk leaky windows and replace faucets with low-flow ones.

And that’s not even all. They insulate water heaters, put aerators in sinks to keep the pressure up with less water and hand out things like an entire year’s worth of AC filters and special wraps for AC window or wall units.

And those shower faucets, they are actually quite nice. They are detachable and a nice shiny chrome.

There’s no way to really know whether the Duke energy fairies will come visit your neighborhood any time soon. Those areas pre-selected for the program will get a flyer on their door introducing a kick-off event. Following that event homes will start receiving door hangers with a date and time frame when a contractor will be at their home.

You don’t have to go to the kick-off event to qualify, but you do have to be home for them to make any improvements.

Duke Energy estimates that the changes can save the average ratepayer about $150 per year and that’s not counting the value of all the free stuff. Shower heads similar to the ones Duke is handing out run about $20-$30. We got three. Standard air filters run about $5 each. We got 12.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all hopped up because three guys in neon shirts showed up at my house with a bunch of freebies, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind.

Duke isn’t just handing out energy-saving hardware because they’re nice. It even says on their website that helping rate payers save energy helps them save money.

What they don’t mention is they are required, by law, to spend a certain amount of money on energy efficiency, even though their friends at the Florida Public Service Commission recently gutted that requirement by about 90 percent.

The reason they got that gift from the PSC? They argued it’s cheaper to make power – i.e. build new power plants – than it is to cut energy use. Ha!

In any case, I’m going to let all that slide at least for today because when push comes to shove, I love me some freebies!

For those who haven’t gotten that nifty little door hanger saying the free energy swag crew is coming through, there is a free energy home check customers can sign up for online. During that visit Duke will tell you what you need to save energy, but they won’t actually give it to you.

Our energy-saving buddies said they’d be moving about our area, Historic Kenwood, and South until about September. You can call 855-227-2918 to find out if your home is eligible and to set up a time for someone to stop by.

Now excuse me. I’m going to go play with my new faucets!

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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