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NDSU Extension engineer educates homeowners and businesses on energy conservation

Published October 24, 2013

If you conserve energy in your home, you’ll like what you see in your checkbook. That is the straightforward message of NDSU Extension Service agricultural engineer Kenneth Hellevang, who is the “go-to guy” on the subject.

Through presentations, publications, Web materials, news releases and videos, Hellevang is in the forefront of urging the public to conserve and save. “My role here at NDSU is outreach education. Efficiently using energy is one of the topics I’ve focused on,” he said. “Whether we are talking about a home or business, we educate people in ways that allow them to save money.”

According to Hellevang, interest in energy conservation and efficiency often goes in cycles. He’s seen a repeated pattern during his 33-year career at NDSU. “When energy prices spike real high, people get really interested for a period of time,” he said. “But, I think there’s always a need for energy efficiency.”

The NDSU Extension Service provides a variety of educational tools to help with techniques to use energy efficiently. At, you’ll learn energy-saving tips for your home, farm or ranch. There’s also a wealth of information on biofuels, solar energy and wind power.

In addition, the website can direct users to “Home Energy Use 101,” an NDSU Extension Service online course designed for new and future homebuyers, but is of value to everyone. The course provides details about technologies and techniques to minimize residential energy consumption.

If a homeowner does one thing, Hellevang hopes it is proper weatherization of their structure. “Regular maintenance of the home makes a huge difference. The costs are very little and the return is very significant,” he said, noting some simple steps include making sure proper weather stripping is in place on doorjambs and caulking is used to prevent air leaks around air exhausts and intakes and where heating and plumbing lines enter a building.

Insulation is another important topic for homeowners to consider.

“If there is proper insulation in the rest of a home, but the basement is not insulated, we’re losing about 20 percent of our energy through the basement. The money you invest to insulate the basement has a payback period of only two to three years,” Hellevang said.

Still another cost-saving suggestion is turning down your heat or air conditioning during nighttime hours or while you are at work. The U.S Department of Energy reports you can annually save 5 to 15 percent on your heating or cooling bill if your thermostat is set back for eight hours each day.

The NDSU Extension Service also works with homebuilders and realtors across the state, as well as faculty at universities around the country to bring the most up-to-date research to the public. A national effort called allows a number of states to work cooperatively to develop and share information so people can make informed decisions.

“It’s true – energy efficiency does give us the best return on our investment,” Hellevang said. “It puts more money in the pockets of homeowners and business people. And who doesn’t want that?”

For more information on energy conservation, alternative fuels and stories about NDSU’s energy activities, visit


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