by Stephen Mills – Times Argus – February 13, 2018
This year’s cold weather and associated heating costs make it a good time to think about home weatherization to save energy and money and combat climate change.
Weatherize Montpelier is a new initiative by Net Zero Montpelier to encourage residents to sign up for a free home inspection and estimate to weatherize homes, which officials say can reduce home heating bills by an average of 20 to 25 percent. More than 500 residents have already benefited from the program, according to Net Zero’s count.
In an expansion of the program promoted by the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee, a workshop to educate homeowners will be held at the VSECU on Bailey Avenue from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Residents will learn how to participate in the program, meet contractors and be encouraged to sign up for a free home-energy study visit. Food will be provided and there will be a raffle and door prizes.
Program committee member Paul Markowitz said the initiative was incentive for homeowners to avoid the estimated $300 cost for an energy audit and learn more about the benefits of weatherizing their homes.
“The basic premise of the program is that residents take a few minutes completing an online survey showing their commitment and interest in actually doing something,” Markowitz said. “In exchange, the contractor agrees to do a free walk-through and develop an estimate.”
Markowitz said the program was based on a successful model by Weatherize Upper Valley, which has helped weatherize scores of homes in southern Vermont and New Hampshire.
Weatherize Montpelier has defined several goals, including a coordinated plan to bring homeowners and contractors together, provide outreach materials and online access, build a database of resources and track the program’s progress in the community. The program is designed to ensure timely response to requests by homeowners to participate in an audit and completion of work within 90 days of signing a contract. There will also be oversight of complaints or disputes between homeowners and contractors.
Lower-income central Vermont residents — particularly older Vermonters, people with disabilities and families with children — who want to save fuel and money by improving the energy efficiency of their homes can also sign up with the statewide Weatherization Program through Capstone Community Action in Barre.
Applicants, both renters and homeowners, are eligible if their household income is at or below 80 percent of median income, with priority given to those who are below 60 percent. Eligibility includes someone receiving Supplemental Security Income, and seasonal fuel assistance.
Services offered in the program include comprehensive, whole-house assessment of energy-related problems and energy-efficient retrofits. That includes dense-pack sidewall insulation, air sealing, attic insulation, heating system upgrades and replacements.
Washington Electric Co-op’s Button Up program is also increasing cash incentives for its members who invest in energy-efficient weatherization and heating purchases.
Members may claim $2,000 toward home weatherization, up to $1,000 toward cold climate heat pumps, $850 for heat pump water heaters, $1,450 for solar hot water heaters and $3,000 for wood pellet boilers.