Representatives of the Citizens Utility Board offer tips to residnets about how to save on utility bills at a free program at the Levy Center on Sept 7. CUB representatives went over residents’ telephone, gas and electric bills line-by-line to see where savings could be garnered. Photo by Mary Mumbrue

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More than 50 Evanston residents showed up at the Levy Senior Center on Sept. 7 to learn how to save money on their utility bills. The Citizens Utility Board, CUB, held morning and evening workshops to which residents could bring telephone, electric and gas bills and receive advice on how to reduce them.

“People were lined up even before 10 a.m., when the first workshop began,” said Patrick Deignan of CUB.

“We offered them a line-by-line analysis of gas, electric and phone bills,” he said. He added that there are “more options” for saving on a land-line telephone bill than on a cellular-phone bill, because of the many plans that cell-phone companies offer.

“A big problem with any gas company [bill] is when it is estimated,” Jim Chilsen, communications director, told one resident. “The lesson is to do exactly what you’re doing – reading your gas bill and calling the company,” he added.

The resident said the gas company had suggested that, instead of paying an estimated bill, the resident read the meter. “So I asked for a deduction in my bill, since I’d be doing their work, and they refused – it’s outrageous,” he added.

“For years we have been talking with [utility] companies to get them to communicate better,” Mr. Chilsen said. “A big part of the problem is miscommunication,” he added.

Inez Goldstein and Ann Smirniotis said they felt the discussions had been productive. “The woman I spoke with was excellent. We talked about my phone bill, gas bill and electric bill,” Ms. Goldstein said.

“Everything they list I do anyway,” said Ms. Smirniotis, referring to a whiteboard on which several tips – such as lowering the water temperature used in washing laundry and replacing incandescent bulbs with CFL, compact fluorescent light, bulb. “CFLs really do work,” she added.