Workshop on energy efficiency hosted by RAFT
“Everyone thinks we’re just against everything. This is what we’re for,” Meredith Bocek said. She was speaking about Owego RAFT, Residents Against Fracking Tioga, and the reputation the group she is a member of has gotten from their vocal opposition to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York. On Feb. 23, RAFT took over St. Patrick’s School in Owego for a symposium on conservation and renewable energy.
RAFT member Janet Thomas said St. Patrick’s was gracious to host the teach-in, whereas other venues either weren’t interested in associating themselves with RAFT or wished to remain neutral. The Catholic School located on Main Street in Owego turned out to be a perfect choice. St. Patrick’s was holding a barbeque on the same day that provided a tasty lunch for the 40 people who arrived, Thomas saying everyone really enjoyed the freshly cooked food.
“It’s the perfect place to demonstrate an energy audit,” Thomas said, highlighting the second reason St. Patrick’s worked well for the informational gathering. The Insulation Man demonstrated aspects of a home energy audit, known in the business as a home performance evaluation. A doorway was replaced with a sealed closure holding a powerful fan used to create negative air pressure in the old home which houses St. Patrick’s school. With the fan blowing air from the building, places where air is seeping into the heated space are easily identifiable with an infrared camera.
“Our work is tightening up that shell,” Dave Currie of The Insulation Man said. The Insulation Man is a full service home performance contracting business operating out of 428 Court St. in Binghamton, N.Y. Currie said that home insulation has changed over the years. “Insulation is more complicated than people think,” Currie said, “for instance we don’t use fiber glass insulation anymore.”
Currie said some simple things homeowners can do to improve their energy efficiency would be weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors, and changing the filter on their furnace. Currie also recommended getting the furnace or boiler tuned up to ensure efficient operation, but that should be left to qualified heating technicians rather than the homeowner.
“I challenge people to name another home improvement that pays them back,” Currie said, “we work to make everything work more efficiently to heat your home. We make sure you’re not heating the outdoors.” Currie added that The insulation Man works with a local community based organization set up by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to help consumers get home energy evaluations at a low cost or free.
Brad Pacalis is an Assistant Outreach Coordinator for the Public Policy and Education Fund of New York, and works with Green Jobs Green NY. Pacalis said there is funding available for free home energy performance evaluations, and a fifty-fifty matching grant that can pay up to half the cost of energy upgrades of up to $5,000 for single or $10,000 for two to four family homes.
“Ninety-two percent of New Yorkers qualify for free energy assessments that would cost five hundred dollars normally,” Pacalis said. Those assessments Pacalis can help homeowners get provide a list of measures homeowners can have done to their homes to improve energy efficiency. To qualify for financing, improvements must pay for themselves and there are low interest loans available.
As an example, Pacalis said that a homeowner who got a loan to improve their home’s energy use may have a payment of $40 per month, included in their monthly utility bill when financed through On-Bill financing. That homeowner could typically expect a savings of $70 a month reflected in their energy bills, for a net savings to the homeowner of $30 per month for the duration of the loan term. After completing the loan term, the savings would be the entire $70 per month. There are five, ten and 15 year loan terms available. The work can’t qualify for low interest loans or grants if it won’t save the homeowner money on their utility bills, Pacalis said.
In addition to energy use, the home energy performance evaluations Pacalis can help homeowners get also check the structure for mold and mildew, a concern for many Tioga County homeowners still recovering from the flood. If found, mold and mildew would have to be addressed at the same time as energy improvements. Pacalis can provide a list of accredited contractors who can also provide more information to homeowners.
To sign up for a free energy assessment or for more information on these programs call: (607) 723-0110 during business hours or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.