Energy-efficiency work is a great way for homeowners to save money and energy while increasing the comfort of their home, and there are a number of incentive programs to help them pay for the work. But what about the close to half the residents—45.5%—who rent in Tompkins County?
In the past, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins has documented community members cutting their energy bills in half, receiving energy-efficient appliances and lighting, and insulating their homes for free or at a reduced cost. This work is thanks to federal and state-funded programs that help subsidize energy work. In this article, we share two separate stories of a tenant and a landlord who took advantage of these programs to help improve the efficiency, comfort, and safety of their homes.
A Tenant’s Story of a Warmer Home
Aislyn Colgan, an Energy Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, said she began the process of getting work done on her home by getting an energy audit done by local contractor Snug Planet.
Aislyn and her family participated in the EmPower New York program, which provides energy efficiency solutions to income-eligible New Yorkers. Assistance can include energy-efficient lighting, attic and wall insulation, replacements of inefficient appliances and water-saving showerheads.
“They came and did a full audit of the house, and the person … was super awesome,” Aislyn said. “She brought my daughter around with her to show her all the stuff she was doing. She did a lot of education just as part of that audit, and then wrote up a plan that was basically like, ‘This is what we would do for your house.’”
The report outlined insulating the walls, sealing the attic and adding an air-sealing hatch, and adding spray foam to the basement and attic.
When applying for EmPower — which is based on the tenant’s income — Aislyn said Snug Planet walked her through the entire process. She said that her mother, who is also her landlord, had to fill out paperwork to give permission for the work to be done and demonstrate ownership of property. Beyond that, it was Aislyn who communicated with Snug Planet about the work.
After filling out paperwork, Aislyn said she worked with Snug Planet to determine what portion of the work would be covered by Empower. She said that to cover the rest of it, she applied for and received a grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.
Around December of 2018, Snug Planet came to her home and used spray foam to insulate her basement and crawl spaces and seal her attic hatch. She said they also added wire mesh to the basement to help address a rodent problem.
Aislyn said she noticed that her home was warmer and more comfortable after getting the work done.
“I did notice a difference in the wintertime,” she said. “We did have a couple of super cold days. I mostly noticed it with the thermostat settings. It would be at 64°, and I’d be like, ‘Oh really? It’s only at 64°?’ I feel like it would have been much higher.”
She said sealing her attic hatch also helped keep warm air inside the upper level of her home.
This kind of work, she said, is advantageous for both tenants and landlords.
“For the landlord, it is a bonus to their offering to say it had some of the leaky drafts sealed, or that you can get a lower energy bill renting there,” Aislyn said. “And so it’s kind of a win-win. Especially for the landlord — there’s no out of pocket costs for them.”
Aislyn is currently working with Tompkins Community Action to determine if she can receive assistance for wall insulation under the Weatherization Assistance Program.
From the Landlord’s Perspective: Insulation At a Reduced Cost
Marie McRae, a longtime energy activist who recently participated in the Energy Navigator program, has lived on her farm in Dryden for the past 35 years. She is also a landlord, and her tenant participated in a state-funded energy program to have energy efficiency work conducted on her property at a reduced cost.
She said the process began two years ago when Snug Planet conducted an energy audit on her tenant’s property because Marie was interested in installing heat pumps. Conducting an energy audit can help reduce energy use prior to installing a new heating system, resulting in a smaller system, less energy use, and a more comfortable home.
After collecting additional information from her tenant, they then recommended that Marie have the attic and ceiling of the property insulated.
“I started off by requesting an energy audit, and once that was in motion, Snug knew what needed to be done there,” Marie said.
Then, she said, they contacted her with forms to sign and with information about how her tenant qualified for assistance in getting the insulation work done.
“A few weeks later, they sent me a note saying ‘Oh great! Your tenant qualifies, and we’ll do this work, and it won’t cost you a cent,” Marie said. “And I went ‘What?!”
After moving forward with the work, Snug Planet insulated the attic and sealed up the air leaks around the attic access door. Marie said she noticed a number of benefits that her tenant enjoyed after getting the work done on the rental property.
“Getting the work done makes the person living in the house more comfortable and lowers their heating bills, and in my case, gets them off fossil fuels,” she said. “My tenant saved $500 the first winter that she ran the heat pumps, and you know, some of that was [due to the] insulation.”
Marie said she recommends this process to anyone who could benefit from energy efficiency work.
“I think every homeowner and landlord in the state should be doing this,” Marie said.
Article by Communications Intern Maggie McAden.
Eligibility for energy efficiency programs is based on tenant income, household size, number of units in the building, and other factors. Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Energy Navigators can help you find out if you are eligible. Contact Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (607) 272-2292 x 186 with any questions.