Freezing in the Fingerlakes? Get Toasty in Tompkins

By Jaime Hazard, 

Tompkins Community Action

Are you noticing drafts in your home? Wondering whether your heating system is safe or efficient? Are you looking for ways to save on your energy costs? With winter coming on fast,  Tompkins Community Action wants to help keep your home warm. Every day, TCAction hears from homeowners, landlords and renters looking for information about our energy efficiency programs. With so many energy efficiency loans, rebates, grants and tax incentives available, it can be hard to figure out what you really need, what you are eligible for, or even where to begin.

But now is a great time to make energy efficiency improvements on your home. There are more funding options now than ever before and they are available to people of all income levels and living situations. For example:

• Subsidy programs such as Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® (AHP) pays for 50 percent of home energy efficiency upgrades up to $5,000 for any homeowner that falls at or below 80 percent of the median income.

• The federal government offers generous tax credits of 30 percent off the cost of energy efficiency measures such as insulation, windows and doors, and furnace and hot water heater replacements — up to $1,500.

• NYSEG has a rebate program for new energy-efficient heating systems and duct work.

• Most of our local banks are offering low APR loans specifically for energy efficiency upgrades.

Figuring out which of these great programs to pursue can be daunting. You may find yourself asking questions like: “If I qualify for AHP, can I still get the tax credit?” “Can I also take advantage of the NYSEG rebate?” “What forms do I have to fill out to get the tax credit?” “What if I’m not sure of what I need, but I know my house is colder than it should be?” “What do I do next?”

The first step towards identifying and prioritizing what needs to be done in your home is a comprehensive home assessment, or energy audit. Armed with the latest technology and tools of the trade, an energy auditor examines your home from the rafters to the foundation.  They test the efficiency of your furnace, measure the air leakage of your home, test major appliances to determine electricity usage, determine the amount of insulation in walls, and investigate indoor air quality issues. All the data collected is analyzed using computer software, and the auditor shares the results with you in a detailed report. When scheduling an audit, make sure the contractor is accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI). BPI sets high standards for contractors that work in the energy efficiency field.  Many subsidy and loan programs require that a BPI-accredited contractor work on the project. 

Once you choose an improvement plan, how do you pay for the work?  There are many ways to take advantage of the energy efficiency tax credits, loans and grants available to renters, landlords and homeowners. At TCAction, we have been researching these methods and help people every day who are trying to find the path that will help them the best.

Tompkins Community Action has been serving our community since 1964. Our mission is to partner with low-income households and individuals as they develop to their full potential.  Providing energy services for over 30 years, our BPI-accredited Energy Services Department helps consumers save money on their housing costs by improving the energy efficiency and comfort of their homes.  We have been providing the federally-funded Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to income-eligible Tompkins County residents at no cost for over 30 years.  In recent years, we have expanded our services to include Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®, Empower NY and Energy Button Ups, and have expanded our service area to include neighboring counties.

For more information, contact TCAction’s Energy Services Packager at 607.273.8816 ext. 155 or visit .


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