Heating bills are often low on the radar in the heat of summer, but measures taken now can reduce upcoming energy costs by as much as half, and income-eligible homeowners and renters can have the work done for free.
Home Energy Connection, a program of Northeast Parent and Child Society, works with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star initiative to provide services. The program can insulate, reduce drafts and even provide new energy-efficient furnaces, all at up to 50 percent off for eligible homeowners throughout the Capital Region.
The program has a $5,000-per-home cap. Eligible homeowners in the city of Schenectady can have the rest of the bill covered with grant money. Home Energy Connection obtained a $99,000 grant from the city in October to cover weatherization costs that NYSERDA doesn’t pay, up to $5,000 per home, according to Kevin McKiernan, director of weatherization services for Northeast Parent and Child Society.
Eight city homeowners have taken advantage of the program to date and several already report significantly lower heating bills.
“Some of the ones we did toward the end of last fall were reporting back in the first few months of the winter that their bills were half of what they were the year before,” McKiernan said.
Marianne Bradt of Schenectady recently had her 93-year-old, single-family home weatherized free of charge by Home Energy Connection and already has seen results.
“I knew we were losing [energy], but I didn’t know where,” she said.
After an inspection of the home’s lights, heating system, basement and attic, it was determined that insulation was needed in the attic and sill.
“Right after we had it done, we had that 90-plus [degree] weather, and I immediately could tell the difference,” she said, explaining that it was much easier to keep her home at a comfortable temperature after new insulation was installed.
Almost every house in Schenectady inspected by Home Energy Connection needs insulation, McKiernan noted.
To qualify for the NYSERDA program and the grant money, households must have an income equal to or below 80% of state or local median income, whichever is greater. For a family of four, that’s about $65,000.
The weatherization program application process starts with a NYSERDA home energy audit, which is available free of charge to most homeowners, according to the agency’s website. Home Energy Connection’s employees are available to help with everything from signing up for the audit to applying for free weatherization work once need is determined.
Getting approved for the free work can take several months, McKiernan noted, but it’s worth the wait, because the resulting improvements have the potential to save homeowners between 30 and 50 percent on their energy bills.
Home Energy Connection also does energy-efficiency improvements for income-eligible renters, funded in full by NYSERDA’s EmPower New York program. Qualified renters can receive a free electricity use-reduction audit, compact fluorescent bulbs for all light fixtures and even a new refrigerator if their current one exceeds a certain level of energy usage.
With a landlord’s approval, insulation can be installed and appliances and lighting upgraded in eligible buildings, all free of charge.