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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Emergency Energy Assistance Available For Seniors

Pinellas County Health and Human Services Department provides emergency energy assistance of up to $600 to senior citizens unable to pay their power bills. 

Funds from the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco/Pinellas Inc. can help residents age 60 and older who are in danger of having their power disconnected during the designated cooling and heating seasons when demand and bills are higher than normal. 

Eligible seniors must have a crisis with a delinquent notice from the utility company or a notice that power has been shut off to be considered for help. They may also qualify to receive repairs to a cooling unit or a voucher for fans, heaters and blankets. Applications are now being accepted. 

Eligible seniors can receive help up to twice a year during each high-demand season. Health and Human Services staff members screen applicants to determine if they meet income limits. The income limit is 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline. For a household of one, the limit is $16,245 a year. For two people, the income limit is $21,855 (add $5,610 for each additional member of family units with more than eight members.) 

Prospective clients can either stop by a Health and Human Services office or call for 

an appointment and information.  Call or email Annie Shaw at (727) 464-8400 in Clearwater or Ann Eicher at (727) 582-7781 in St. Petersburg.  Health and Human Services offices are located at 2189 Cleveland St., Suite 230, Clearwater and at 647 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg

Assistance is provided without discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin. 

This program is funded by Area Agency on Aging of Pasco/Pinellas, Inc. 

Pinellas County Health and Human Services

Area Agency on Aging


Thursday, May 21, 2009

OOPS! What to Do With a Broken Compact Fluorescent Light

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

A broken CFL has the capacity to release the small amount of mercury contained within it in the form of a gas. Should you accidentally drop a CFL, follow the EPA’s “Cleanup and Disposal Guidelines for Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs – June 2008” linked below.

First and foremost, as soon as the break happens, clear out. Get pets and people away from the area and shut off the AC or heat. Open a window or windows if possible and allow at least 15 minutes for ventilation to occur.

If the break occurs on a hard surface, use stiff cardboard to scoop-up fragments (don’t sweep—this can cause bits to go airborne—or vacuum) and place in a glass jar or a sealed plastic bag. Use strong tape such as fibrous duct tape to collect the rest of the glass fragments and powder. Finally use a damp cloth to clean the area. Place all the items used during the clean-up process into the glass jar or sealed plastic bag being used for collection.

If the break occurs on carpeting or a rug, carefully collect fragments and place them in a jar or plastic bag, and use strong tape for the tiny bits. If you choose to vacuum, dispose of the vacuum bag or canister contents in the jar or plastic bag. It is important to ventilate the room where the break occurred for the next several times you vacuum.

Now that you’ve got your jar/bag of hazardous waste, what to do next? In Pinellas County, “We want people to bring broken bulbs and associated cleanup materials to HEC3 (Pinellas County Solid Waste), not put them in the regular trash,” says Andy Fairbanks, Waste Reduction Program Supervisor, Pinellas County Utilities Solid Waste Operations.

See links below for more information. Hey, accidents happen. The good news is CFLs do not need to be handled very often (only seven years in some cases!), so the odds of a mishap are greatly reduced.

Cleanup and Disposal Guidelines For Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) June 2008

Information on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury
July 2008

Pinellas County Household Electronics & Chemical Collection Center

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Calling All Tampa Bay “Green” Vendors

Vestina Crayton Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

Improving the local economy is a large part of being sustainable. Pinellas County Extension is committed to educating and informing our community about the available resources in the Tampa Bay Area.

We need your help identifying who our local “green” vendors are. Please complete and submit this Green Vendor Information Survey

The information collected will be used to create a Green Product and Services Directory Web page. This Web page will be placed on the Pinellas County Extension’s Solution For Your Life Sustainable Living Green Purchasing Web page.

We will announce the launch of this Web page in this newsletter.

Pinellas County Government does not endorse any person, company, product, or service. This sight is for informational purposes only.

Green Vendor Survey:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cool It!

James Stevenson,
Pinellas County Extension Specialist,
Urban Sustainability

Can you feel the hot breath of summer on your neck? Yes, another beautiful and enviable winter and spring are soon to be a thing of the past. We shall will soon be cranking-down the temperatures in our homes to do battle with the heat and humidity that Central Florida is famous for (but would you want to live anywhere else??)

It is a perfect time to make sure your cooling system is operating as efficiently as possible so you won’t be leaking $20 bills through cracks in your system. Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) accounts for more than 40% of the average home’s energy bill (FCS3262, 2008.)

Of course one of the easiest things to do to improve your system’s efficiency is to change the air filter(s) associated with your system. This allows the system to operate without having to draw (work) harder to get air through the ductwork.

Another simple task is to make sure the outdoor unit (condenser) is not obstructed by plants or structures that might impede air flow. A tree shading the unit helps keep it a bit cooler, making its job easier, but fallen leaves clogging the in and out flow can decrease efficiency. Check the owner’s manual and make sure the power is shut off to the unit if you intend to do any work to clear debris from the surface.

The indoor unit of the AC is the air handler. This is where the real chilling takes place. Within this unit is the evaporator coil which is a virtual dust magnet. This coil is often moist due to normal condensation. The moisture traps dust and dirt and must be kept clean to work efficiently. Again, refer to your owner’s manual and shut the power off to the unit if you intend to do this easy maintenance.

There are other common-sense measures you can take to keep your system running smoothly. Draw the blinds across west-facing windows to shield them from blaring afternoon sun. Use ceiling fans (only when you are in the room.) A thermostat set at 78˚ will feel like 74˚ with the cooling breeze created by these Florida fixtures. Installing a an EnergyStar® rated programmable thermostat is another DIY task that could help make your system run more efficiently and save you some money! Click here for advice on choosing a programmable thermostat.

Beyond these simple tasks, unit maintenance is really best left to the professionals. Luckily our local power company will pay 50% up to $30 to for a qualified participating contractor to inspect your entire duct system. Leaks in duct work can result in huge losses to a system’s efficiency. Should you require any repair work to your duct work (and by the way, despite its name that magic tape is NOT suitable for repairing duct work) Progress Energy will pay up to $150 for repairs to ducts. For more information on these incentives, click here.

Keeping your HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently will certainly help you save on your energy bill, and doing so will contribute to a wider-ranging savings on energy consumption throughout our area.


UF/IFAS Energy Efficient Homes: Air Conditioning
EnergyStar Heating and Cooling
Progress Energy