This month’s energy saving tips from Next Step Living Energy Advisor of The Month, Tim Slater, who has been saving people all over Cape Ann a ton of money by replacing a ton of free lightbulbs, power strips, electronic thermostats that will turn down the heat at night or while you’re at work automatically, and efficient showerheads.
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Returning to his New England roots, Tim Slater, Advisor of the Month is likely one of the most well-rounded home energy advisors at Next Step Living. Starting his career off in the fine arts as a photographer, he then found his way to insulation work after moving halfway across the country, returning to Massachusetts nearly four years ago to work at Next Step Living. He shares his observations about homeowners, plus how to prepare for warmer weather.
How did you get started at Next Step Living?
I’ve been here three and a half years. My friend was working for Next Step Living, and when I moved back from Las Vegas applying for a home energy advisor position built upon the skills I’d learned there while working at an insulation company. I like being out in the field and not being stuck in one place. That was a bonus for me.
I actually have my bachelor’s in fine arts and photography, but I’ve always done construction in high school and college. Photography is still fun for me on the side, but I prefer it as a hobby. Being a home energy advisor is my full-time commitment.
What’s your favorite thing about being a home energy advisor?
How happy customers are after I leave. It’s cheesy, but I like making them happy. I get to swap out light bulbs and show them how much they can save on their heating costs, and I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone be angry with me when I leave. Everyone wants to save money, and I can help them do that.
What’s the No. 1 thing you’ve learned during your time as a home energy advisor?
After this winter, people are most interested in saving money and being more comfortable. And there’s one way to do that: insulation. I’ve been in thousands of homes, and I would say the large majority of them don’t quite realize that they need more insulation in their homes. There are some that have very little, and they think that’s sufficient. So I like to educate them on the proper R-value needed to really keep warm.
Insulation truly is a year-round issue. It has no specific season, and it’s likely the biggest thing you should have checked in your home to be more comfortable, and to save money.
What are some other things homeowners can do to prepare for warmer weather now that the sun’s finally out?
Before you turn on your air conditioner, get the compressors looked at by an expert to make sure that your air conditioner is working properly, and that it’s working efficiently, too. Think of it the same way you would with your furnace in the winter. It’s a much costlier fix, and much more misery, too, if you have to get it fixed in the dog days of summer rather than when it’s more mild weather.
How do you assess a home?
I like to explain to the homeowner as I’m going through their home what I’m finding. I’ll try to encourage them to follow along with me, which some do, or if they wander off, I’ll check in with them periodically. First, I’ll check the heat and hot water to make sure everything is safe and working efficiently. Then I’ll go up to the attic and look at the crawl spaces, then their windows and then I’ll swap out their light bulbs if needed for more efficient CFLs or LEDs. I like to keep the homeowner in the loop the whole time I’m completing a home energy assessment rather than bombard them at the end with a lot of information.
I always sit down and talk to the homeowners first and find out their problem areas. It makes them feel more comfortable and at ease with me going through their home.
How has your role evolved since you’ve started at Next Step Living?
I became a Senior Home Energy Advisor at the end of last year, and this past month, became a HEA Coach, so I’m now a field trainer for other advisors, which is great. I love people, and I enjoy teaching the new advisors how to do a home energy assessment and how to give the customer the best experience possible. I’ve trained many advisors here, some of which have become close friends, and it’s gratifying to see them do so well, too.
By the way the lightbulbs that they give you are not the ugly squiggly ones, they look just like the ones in your house only they use 10 watts instead of 65 or 100.