Cornell Cooperative Extension representative provides information on energy-efficiency programs

·4 min read

Jun. 13—CANTON — As the days get warmer and the air conditioning season gets under way, energy-efficiency programs are available for low- to moderate-income families through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Nick Hamilton-Honey, community energy adviser at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, said EmPower Plus and Assisted Home Performance are among the residential programs that are offered.

A seven-page mailed or emailed application that's available on the NYSERDA website is completed for EmPower.

"The resident gets a free home energy assessment to get that baseline of where their home is at. Then there's the installation of free upgrades including LED lighting, replacing furnace filters, high-efficiency shower heads or aerators under sinks. It is up to $10,000 of specific energy-efficiency measures," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

The program also includes replacing old refrigerators or freezers, insulation and air sealing.

"It doesn't generally include any health and safety measures. There are exceptions to those. If a window is broken, windows can be replaced. Generally, no roof measures are done in EmPower. We try to hook folks up to either another program that can take care of that or get them into a weatherization assistance program," he said.

He said if the entire $10,000 isn't used the first time, it can be carried over if the individual applies for the Empower program again. For instance, if $4,000 of work was done the first time, "then you are eligible for another $6,000 worth of work even though you had work done in prior years," he said.

There's also the Assisted Home Performance program.

"Assisted Home Performance is a moderate income program for those folks that don't qualify for EmPower. They still have a set of incentives that they're eligible for," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

The application for a free home energy assessment is online and takes about five to 10 minutes to complete. Assisted Home Performance is a 50/50 match with up to $5,000 matching funds. For instance, NYSERDA would cover $4,000 of eligible upgrades for an $8,000 project and the customer would cover the rest.

He said there's an optional loan program that can cover the 50% customer match. That's a separate application from the home energy assessment application.

Both programs are based on income.

"It's based upon either monthly gross max income or yearly gross max income and it's broken down for household size," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

A one-person family with a monthly gross maximum income of $2,610 or a yearly gross maximum income of $31,318 would be eligible to apply for the EmPower program. For a family of 10, the monthly gross maximum income is $8,712 and the yearly gross maximum income is $104,540.

"With the EmPower program, you don't necessarily need to have the income verification information if that resident already qualifies for HEAP or SNAP. They'll automatically qualify for the EmPower program," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

Applicants must live in a building with 100 or few units to qualify, "so it doesn't have to be a single residence. This can qualify for landlords," he said.

For the Assisted Home Performance program, a one-person family with income of $62,636 would qualify. For a family of 10, that income level would be $209,080.

"That's only until June 30," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

Applicants for the Assisted Home Performance program must live in a building that has only one to four units.

A number of improvement areas are available under the Assisted Home Performance program, including primary heating and cooling systems, building shells, water heaters, conservation, and appliances and lighting.

"With both the EmPower program and the Assisted Home Performance program, you can choose your contractor. There are certain contractors that work in this area and will come up and do these energy assessments and then energy efficiency upgrades," he said.

Local contractors participating in the EmPower program include ADK Insulating in Potsdam, Aeon Heating and Air Conditioning in Potsdam, Cornerstone Services in Norwood, Cowles and Co. in Watertown, and Energy Answers in Waddington. All of them with the exception of Energy Answers also participate in the Assisted Home Performance program.

The programs are not available to customers in the Massena Electric Department's district, but MED does offer its own energy-efficiency programs.

"That does not mean that those folks in Massena can't get a free home energy audit. They can. It's through the Massena Electric website," Mr. Hamilton-Honey said.

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