Editor's note: This is the first in a four-part series focusing on energy awareness during the month of October in honor of Energy Awareness Month.

FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Fort Riley's Energy Branch, Directorate of Public Works, reminds Soldiers, Family members and civilian employees to be energy conscious while recognizing the 20th anniversary of the presidential proclamation designating October as Energy Awareness Month.

"For 20 years, the federal government, state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations have celebrated October with activities and actions to promote energy awareness," said Norman Zuercher, chief, Energy Branch, DPW. "The goal of the campaign is to promote a greater public understanding and awareness of energy, how energy can be used wisely and effectively and the importance of energy to the economic prosperity and future of the United States. A key piece in this campaign is to simply educate and remind people of ways to reduce the amount of energy they consume in their daily lives."

About 45 percent of the energy used at Fort Riley is to heat facilities during the cold, winter months, and another 20 percent is used to keep them cool in the warm and hot summer months.

"So the simplest thing that has the greatest impact is to adjust your thermostat. In the winter, if everyone were to wear a sweater or jacket to work and then turn the thermostat down a few degrees, we would see an immediate drop in our heating bills and potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be used to pay salaries, buy equipment or other budgetary needs," Zuercher said.

More savings could be achieved by ensuring thermostats are turned down even further when buildings are not occupied at night and on weekends.

"Army policy says that at night and on weekends, thermostats should be set back to 55 degrees in winter and 85 degrees in summer; however, in practice, this is rarely being done in our facilities at Fort Riley," Zuercher said.

Other ways to help reduce energy usage includes:
• Turning off lights in unoccupied rooms or when sufficient daylight is coming in through windows.
• Unplugging personal refrigerators and using a community refrigerator in the break room instead.
• Making sure windows and doors remain closed and tightly sealed during harsh weather.
• Turning off monitors, copiers and printers at the end of the day.
• Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent bulbs.

"Most of these things are common sense. It's really just about being conscience to look around to observe where energy is being wasted and then taking action to eliminate it," Zuercher said.

Each year, Fort Riley spends nearly $20 million on utilities. This is the garrison's second largest line item in its operating budget after personnel salaries, Zuercher said.

"So, any efforts to reduce our energy usage will directly reduce the amount of money we spend on utilities and free up that money to be used for more beneficial things," he said. "Saving energy also reduces our dependence on foreign oil and protects the environment. In theater, saving energy saves lives by reducing the amount of energy that has to be transported across enemy lines."

For more information on energy awareness, visit www.energysavers.gov.