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Southern Tier programs help reduce heating costs

Monday, November 19, 2012

With winter chills expected to be harsher than last year, programs in Tompkins, Chemung and Schuyler counties offer home weatherization that helps people reduce energy costs.

When work is done, the average utility bill drops by 25 percent, according to Tompkins Community Action Executive Director Lee Dillon. Weatherization is offered to both homeowners and renters.

“If we can make their houses more comfortable, more affordable — that’s a long-term investment,” Dillon said.

Households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the state median are eligible for the program. Qualifying income for one person living alone is $25,656 annually; for a household of five, it’s $57,228 annually.

The weatherization program operates at no cost to homeowners, but landlords who apply need to pay an energy audit fee and weatherization investment to qualify for the aid, according to Tompkins Community Action.

Dillon said the Tompkins County program typically weatherizes 60 to 100 homes a year, depending on funding.

A total of about 105 to 120 homes are weatherized yearly through the Schuyler and Chemung Economic Opportunity Program, known as EOP.

The homes are audited for heat loss, and then energy efficiencyupdates are installed.

Each qualified Tompkins County home is allotted up to $6,500 for weatherization, Dillon said.

Because the money is limited, the efficiency updates are targeted toward the measures that are most effective.

Dillon said the money can go toward improvements such as a new furnace, insulation and windows.

“Lots of people are losing heat right out of the roof,” she said. “Insulation is a large part of what we do, especially in the attic and the walls.”

A lack of insulation is also a big issue in Chemung and Schuyler counties, according to EOP Energy Services Director Bob Pierce.

“The need is definitely there. Most of the houses we get into are not insulated,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to weatherize homes when they need major rehab, which would include (leaking) roofs, foundations and wiring.”

Funding for the weatherization comes from the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tompkins County residents interested in applying for weatherization can contact Tompkins Community Action at  (607) 273-8816.

Chemung and Schuyler residents can contact the Economic Opportunity Program at  (607) 734-6174.

Andrew Casler
Ithaca, New York
Ithaca Journal