ARCHIVE 2010

Save $$ on Energy Bills - New Handout & Video.

_resource.60December 3, 2010 - Have you been looking for a way to reduce your home energy costs, but you are confused about where to find the money to upgrade your home? For the first time ever, Greening Greenfield Energy Committee (GGEC) has gathered together all the financial resources available to renters, homeowners and landlords in Franklin County to do energy upgrades on their homes.

GGEC partnered with representatives of the many programs that offer free money and Greenfield Community Television (GCTV) to create these new one-stop-shopping resources.

“There are more financial resources available today than ever before, and this is the first time that all these resources have been put into one place,“ said Nancy Hazard, energy consultant and GGEC member. “I am grateful to everyone who helped develop our new one-stop-shopping video and handout. A special thanks goes to GCTV for filming our SAVE $$ workshop two weeks ago. The video of our workshop offers everyone an opportunity to meet program directors and to hear first-hand from a homeowner who recently upgraded her home through the Mass Save program.” . While the workshop was designed for people in Greenfield, a majority of the resources are available to everyone in Franklin County.

The SAVE $$ - SAVE ENERGY workshop can be viewed by going to GCTV.org (click on “lower heating costs,”) The handout includes an overview of all the programs and contact information. You can  find a useful excel spreadsheet that can be used to assess how energy efficient your home is today, by clicking here.

“This is the kind of partnership that we love,” said Scott McPherson, director of GCTV. “I’d like to invite other groups to take advantage of what GCTV can offer them.”

The 54 minute video starts out with a short introduction about how a home works, and a simple way to find out how efficient your home is and what the financial savings might be. Susan Worgaftik then talked about her experience with the Mass Save program offered by the utility companies. This program offers a free energy audit and air sealing, 75% of the cost of insulation up to $2000, and a zero percent loan from $2,000-$15,000. Susan’s job cost over $14,000, but she calculates that her return on investment, even if oil remains around $3 / gallon for the foreseeable future, will give her a 6.4% return on investment, which is much better than Wall Street! Her story is fascinating, because her energy retrofit was incredibly complicated. She had a damp basement, knob and tube wiring, and asbestos on her heating pipes, all of which are obstacles to air sealing and insulating, but she overcame them all!

“MassSave.com is a great place to start your search for funds. Among other things, they will ask if you are eligible for fuel assistance,” said Hazard. “Before you say no, ask them to read you the guidelines. I suspect that over one third of Franklin County residents are eligible, and eligibility for fuel assistance opens the door to Community Action’s weatherization programs.” For example, a family of three is eligible if their combined income is $49,675 per year or less. You can reach Mass Save on-line, or call them at 1-866-527-7283. Co-op Power also offers “energy coaches” to help people sort out the options presented by the Mass Save energy auditors.

Peter Wingate, Community Action’s Energy Director explained that Community Action ca offer up to $5,000 per unit for income eligible 1-4 family homes. Eligibility is a bit complicated, so it is good to talk with someone directly about the program. For example, if you live in, or own a 4-family home, the entire building could be upgraded at no cost to the landlord if 2 of the four tenants are income eligible. With 4 units, up to $20,000 could be available. If you are a renter, you will need to tell your landlord about the program, and get them involved. Call Community Action at 413-774-2318.

"“Many of our programs are made possible by a combination of the federal stimulus program and utility company efficiency programs,” said Wingate. “They aim to help you reduce your utility costs while creating jobs, and cutting oil imports, our dependence on fossil fuels, and greenhouse gas emissions. It is a win-win for everyone, but the funds won’t last forever so don’t delay!”

The next speaker, Brenda Church, talked about Greenfield’s Rehabilitation Program. This program offers up to $35,000 to bring a home up to code and do energy efficiency work at the same time. Income eligibility is higher than for Community Action. For example, if the income of a family of three is $56,300 per year or less, they are eligible. It can be used for home repairs from the foundation to the roof, and everywhere in between. You can call Brenda at 772-1411. Similar programs are offered to everyone in the county through the Franklin County Housing & Redevelopment Authority by calling 413 863-9781.

Chris Baronas talked about a special program for people over 60, which is offered by the Franklin County Home Care Corp. Volunteers, called “Benefits Counselors” will come to your home and discuss all these options, help you figure out which option is best for you, and then help with filling out paperwork and following through until the work is done. Chris also mentioned a little-known program offered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for single family homeowners that offers up to $7500 grants as well as loans up to $7500. You can reach Ms. Baronas at Franklin County Home Care by calling 413-773-5555 ext.2258. The USDA’s regional office is 413-585-1000.

The next speaker was Kirsten Wedegartner from Sandri Companies, who talked about a limited-time-only program that they are currently offering to oil-heating customers. Sandri’s Three Step Energy Efficiency Program is a partnership with Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECO). It is funded through a grant from the MA Department of Energy Resources and WMECO. Step one in Sandri’s program is a Mass Save certified home energy assessment performed by their subcontractors, step-two is air sealing and installation of insulation if the home would benefit, and step-three is deeper energy upgrades and improvements such as replacement of heating and cooling systems. Sandri’s Three Step program mirrors Mass Save in that the home energy assessment is at no cost to the customer, having the assessment performed allows the home owner to apply for a 0% interest loan of $2,000-$15,000 for energy improvements, and there is a 75% instant rebate available on insulation work, but the incentive ceiling is $3,000 instead of $2,000. She mentioned that the program’s grant funding also includes a $5,000 rebate for a limited number of customers that are interested in installing a high-efficiency residential wood pellet central heating system in their home once weatherization is complete. People interested in participating in this program must use oil as their primary source of heat and should call Sandri’s office at 413-772-2121 for more information to enroll. .

Becca King, co-creator of GGEC’s 10% Challenge, closed the workshop with an invitation to join the challenge to reduce your energy use by 10% or more by upgrading your home, or by doing some of the many no-cost low-cost things that you can also do to reduce your energy use and save money. While Greenfield’s 10% Challenge lawn sign is only available to Greenfield residents, everyone in Franklin County is invited to join, receive a copy of “Easy Things You Can Do,” and receive a monthly “Green Tip,” via e-mail. You can sign up for the 10% Challenge here.

Greenfield Community Television (GCTV), who produced the video, is a non-profit cable access television and radio production facility dedicated to open, community oriented, multi-media production and publication at 393 Main Street in Greenfield and www.gctv.org.

Greening Greenfield Energy Committee (GGEC), organizer of the workshop, works with Greenfield residents and the Town of Greenfield using ‘greening’ as the inspirational and economic engine to build a more sustainable Greenfield so that current and future generations can enjoy life in this beautiful abundant valley. See links above to access the two-pager that lists funding resources, the excel spreadsheet to quickly analyze your home, to join the Greenfield 10% Challenge or to learn more about GGEC go to www.GreeningGreenfield.org or call 773-7004.

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PS. For information on how to find $$ to help you install solar hot water or solar electric systems on your home click here.