TCAction Gets Your GreenBack

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Tompkins Weekly 02/25/2013

By Danielle Harrington

Linda Corey and Trixie Skinner have this to say about the weatherization work Tompkins Community Action (TCAction) did on their rental home in Brooktondale:  “Weatherization was like a dream—like we won the lottery. Our home now has better windows, insulation—everything.  The crew was wonderful; they worked well together, they knew what they were doing and got right to work.”

The Weatherization Assistance Program is one of the programs TCAction has been offering for more than thirty years to help families reduce their energy bills and make their homes more comfortable and healthy. While I have been working at TCAction with housing for more than ten years, last summer I shifted positions and was amazed at the extent of energy savings work that was quietly completed by a dedicated group of staff with decades of experience. The Get Your GreenBack Tompkins coalition is focusing this February on helping people take steps to save energy at home, and TCAction is one great community resource everyone should know about.

Households with incomes at or below 60% of state median income ($33,552 for a family of two) are eligible for weatherization, and services are available to both homeowners and renters. Priority is given to senior citizens, families with children and persons with disabilities. Across the country, weatherization reduces national energy demand by the equivalent of 24.1 million barrels of oil each year.

All energy efficiency measures are performed by Building Performance Institute™ certified staff who can provide air sealing, wall and ceiling insulation, heating system improvements or replacement, efficiency improvements in lighting, hot water tank and pipe insulation, and refrigerator replacements with highly efficient Energy Star rated units based on a whole house energy audit work scope.

In addition to Weatherization, TCAction provides options for households of all income ranges.  Building Energy Solutions completes EmpowerNY audits and installation of electric reduction measures work, Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star, heating system clean and tunes, and even solar work.  TCAction staff have even completed a few solar thermal hot water installations around the county, with the next one scheduled for the Magnolia House supportive housing program under construction in the City of Ithaca.

The cost of energy in this country has increased 40.7% from 2001 to 2012, a spike that especially affects low income households. Across America, while an average household spends 3.3% of their income on energy, families with low-incomes spend on average 17%, some as high as 25% of their income keeping their homes lit and warm. After having energy work completed, folks are happy with the monthly utility savings and also the increased comfort.  Their homes are set to last longer, and neighborhoods are revitalized. TCAction not only helps households cut their expenses, it provides “green” jobs and job training.

New to Energy Services, I was surprised by the comments and feedback from folks who described the changes in the comfort levels of their home: for being able to take layers of blankets off windows after new ones were installed and finally let the sunlight in;  for being able to wear sock feet because the floors weren’t as cold, or being able to utilize all rooms in the house instead of blocking off certain rooms in the cold weather; for staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter… Each week I hear from folks eager to share their experience.

Did you know that anyone in Tompkins County with an annual household income of less than $142,000 may be eligible for a free whole house energy audit.  Call Beth DeCaro at TCAction 273-8816 ext. 113 and she can help you complete the application for the free audit and help determine which program is right for your household and you take a giant Step! Visit to see a list of other organizations and programs that can help you stay warm, cut your energy bills, and contribute to a cleaner tomorrow.

Danielle Harrington is the Director of TCAction Housing & Energy Services and serves on the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Steering Committee.

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