Energy costs during the winter season can be a large burden for many households in Tompkins County. Though the area experienced an unusually warm winter last year, a recent report by the federal government indicates that individuals heating with natural gas or oil could experience heating cost increases of up to 20 percent this winter. Residential energy use accounts for around one fifth of our County's total energy use, indicating that any reduction in this area can have meaningful impacts on our area's carbon emissions. Recognizing this, there are ways to free your home and wallet from fossil fuel price volatility, dramatically reduce your energy use, and cut your carbon emissions, all while benefiting our local economy.
The first step towards a more energy-efficient household is a home energy assessment performed by a qualified local energy contractor. These energy professionals analyze what areas of your home can be improved so they use less energy or use energy more efficiently. If your household's income is less than $157,000 per year, this diagnostic service is paid for through a state grant with no cost to you. To see a list of area contractors providing this service, visit the Energy Efficient Home page on the GYGB website.
The results of your energy audit will provide you with a list of improvements you can make, their upfront costs, and the amount of time it will take for them to "pay off" through reduced energy bills. These results allow you to make informed choices about which energy improvements make sense for you. Lower income households can qualify for reduced or no-cost home energy upgrades through state and local programs, putting many of these money and carbon-saving steps within reach of a majority of people in the County.
EmPower NY - If your family makes less than 60% of the State's median income ($51,790 for a family of four in 2016), you may qualify for the EmPower program which covers 100% of qualifying energy improvements like insulation, air sealing, and more.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), administered locally by Tompkins Community Action (here for other counties), uses the same eligibility criteria as Empower NY, and provides additional energy improvements at no cost.
Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star - For families below 80% of area median income ($69,052 for a family of four in Tompkins County, Oct 2016). This covers 50% of eligible improvements up to $5,000.
These financial Incentive programs can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Get Your GreenBack offers personalized support to help people learn about the different programs and incentives available to them and connect to relevant local contractors. Let us know how we can help you by filling in a short form and learn more about our Energy Advising program here.
Getting an energy audit and exploring the benefits of energy efficiency are good first steps to decreasing your home energy use. For even greater impact, you may consider options like heat pumps or wood pellet heating to heat your home with renewable energy. To learn more about these steps, visit the renewable heat page. Regardless of how small some of these steps may seem, they each can have a meaningful impact on your energy costs, our County, and our planet as a whole.