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By Chuck Soderberg

Save 50% on your energy bills!”
“Stop paying your electric utility!”
“Save thousands on your heating and cooling costs!”

Have you ever received a postcard or an email featuring one of these headlines? The postcard usually includes an invitation to a free dinner at a local restaurant where you can learn more about how to “save big” on your energy bills. There’s even a local phone number you can call to reserve your spot, causing you to think that a reputable, local company is organizing this effort. It almost always is not. 

As we move beyond the pandemic, these types of invitations will likely increase in our communities. It’s easy to let our guard down because we want to believe the incredible claims we find in our inboxes and mailboxes. These dubious marketing campaigns will tout power converters for your meter, radiant barriers for your attic and other technologies that promise to save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on your energy bills. 

Often, there is some truth to the technology and products being pitched in these postcards. For example, an aluminum radiant barrier placed in your attic can help reduce heat gain during the summer, but the efficiency claims are often overstated, and the product is often overpriced.

Research the company

Before accepting an invitation or signing a long-term contract or financing program, please research the company on the Better Business Bureau website at We also encourage you to contact your local electric co-op and speak to their member services department about the offer. As a reliable source of information you can trust, your local co-op can answer your energy efficiency questions and suggest practical ways to save energy and money on your electric bills. 

Locally owned and governed by the member-consumers we serve, Iowa’s electric cooperatives fully support energy efficiency efforts. In fact, your local co-op offers several incentives, rebates and programs that can lower your electric bill. We can also provide information about which energy efficiency products may qualify for state or federal tax credits. Our priority is to make sure you’re not tricked into spending your hard-earned money on products that don’t work as advertised. Be wary of exaggerated claims and overpriced products in these free dinner schemes. 

Resist pressure tactics

And if you do accept an invitation to a free dinner, don’t feel pressured to make a purchase or sign on the dotted line until you’ve had time to research the company and the claims it is making. Any reputable business would encourage you to take the time you need to make an informed decision. 

Please beware of these invitations – the actual cost of your free dinner could be more than you’re willing to pay.  

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