1. What exactly goes on in the “home energy assessment”?

The assessment – sometimes referred to as the audit – is a comprehensive, top-to-bottom, in-home inspection that typically takes a trained energy professional about two to four hours. They use a combination of high-tech equipment – blower door testing, diagnostic instruments and, if suitable, infrared photography – and old-fashioned crawling around in attics, crawl spaces, to check for potential wasted energy … and a whole lot more:

•leaks where heat is escaping
•missing, inefficient or degraded insulation
•energy-inefficient appliances that could be replaced
•lighting that could be made more efficient
•proper ventilation

Health and Safety:
•carbon monoxide leaks/emissions
•gas leaks
•other pollutant issues
•structural issues
•asbestos issues
•mold issues
•termite damage

2. What are some of the reasons to have a comprehensive home assessment and an energy tune-up or upgrade?

Improving your energy efficiency is a smart investment that provides the following

  • Healthier, safer and more comfortable home
    • Lower cost of living
    • Reduced exposure to energy price increases
    • Increased value and marketability of home
    —plus additional environmental and community benefits, such as
    • Cut carbon emissions and green house gas emissions
    • Less pollution, improved air and water quality
    • Lowered demand for fossil fuels and decreased dependency on foreign oil
    • Local job creation and support to a Warwick non-profit of your choice (see #13 below)

Most people who follow-through with energy upgrades obtain savings between 20-50%.

3. Is the assessment really free?

Yes, for 92% of Warwick residents (anyone earning less than $174,400) and a very modest cost for others.

4. How do I choose a contractor to do the assessment?

Sustainable Warwick has compiled a list – taken from the statewide NYSERDA list – of 6 BPI- and-NYSERDA-certified contractors in the surrounding area who have a track record in Warwick. Included will be names of Warwick residents who have used these contractors and are willing to be contacted about the work done.  If you have any questions, contact Bill Makofske.

5. What kind of time and effort commitment am I making when I do an audit and an upgrade?

The audit typically will take 2-4 hours and you need to be at home while the audit is being performed. The auditor will want to interview you briefly to find out what your concerns are with the house and its efficiency. We recommend that the homeowner follow what the auditor is doing to better understand the house and its energy and/or safety issues. Auditors are generally happy to show you what they find and to explain what needs to be done to fix the problem. For an “energy upgrade” or “tune-up,” the work typically takes 2 to 4 days depending on its extent and the size of the house.

6. After the free assessment, I get a report. What exactly is that?

The report lists all the findings and recommendations from the assessment. The recommendations consist of selected packages of items that list, for each item  (a) a broken-out cost, (b) the projected annual utility savings, and (c) the payback period – the number of years before the savings pays for the cost of that item.

7. Can I just get the report and then do nothing?

While there is no obligation to follow through with an energy upgrade, this is strongly discouraged because no one comes out ahead. Most homes have significant potential for energy improvements and utility bill savings that will pay for them. If the report identifies those potential opportunities with reasonable payback times and then nothing is done, it is one big lost opportunity for you, for the contractor, for the environment … and for the non-profit of your choice. There is a major effort to make sure that a package of energy upgrade options is financially attractive to the homeowner.

8. Do I have to do all the items on the report?

No, while some people do one of the several packages, many pick and choose based on their individual situation. The contractor also identifies a recommended package that has good payback. In addition, doing a significant amount of the recommended items on the report will make you eligible for the $200 donation to a Warwick non-profit of your choice (see #13 below.)

9. How do I know that the work will be done properly, and that the items are fairly priced?

First and foremost, contractors must be accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) to qualify to work in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. This means that each contractor meets high standards for quality, ensuring that energy upgrades are done professionally and correctly. In addition, 10-15 percent of the installations that are performed under the program are quality-reviewed by a third party. If this inspection reveals work that was not done correctly, the work will be redone to meet specifications, at no cost to the homeowner.

The built-in checks and balances are one of the core strengths of the NYSERDA Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. All reports – the initial assessment as well as the “test out” report that is done after the work is completed – pass through and are reviewed by NYSERDA. After reviewing thousands of these reports, NYSERDA reviewers would quickly detect anomalies such as unnecessary or overpriced upgrades.

Specifically, NYSERDA monitors project costs and projected/actual energy cost savings to ensure the Home Performance Contractors meet their energy savings and cost-effectiveness targets. To make this process easier, NYSERDA has compiled a list of eligible program measures that have been screened by the Total Resource Cost (TRC) test, meaning that they are cost effective and have a positive return on investment. Additional measures can only be approved through this program with cost effectiveness verification and documentation provided by the Home Performance Contractor. Such oversight and tests ensure that the Home Performance Contractors deliver what they promise at a reasonable price. For a list of eligible measures, please visit www.nyserda.ny.gov or request this information from mnierenberg@rupco.org.

10. Can I have one contractor do the assessment and another do the work?

Theoretically yes, but this is not practical. The detailed information and measurements obtained in the assessment are needed to do the work. In addition, the second contractor would want to do his/her own assessment for which you would have to pay.

11. Can I get the assessment and then do the work myself?

In most cases, this would be ineffective or inadvisable for several reasons. First, there is no quality control or verification mechanism since homeowners don’t have the BPI training and certification necessary to do the work properly. Second, homeowners are without access to specialized equipment like blower doors and pressure gauges that verify that the job is done satisfactorily. Third, it is possible to “overseal” your home, leaving it with too little ventilation, or perform other changes that may affect safety or health. Fourth, the homeowner would not be eligible for NYSERDA rebates and loans. Finally, it is unfair to the contractor who did the no-cost assessment and at odds with the spirit of the Energize program which is built around a 3-way partnership – homeowner, contractor, and NYSERDA.

12. How can I pay for the work?

There are several options. The homeowner can:

•Pay outright and see dramatically lower utility bills every month.
•Access grants and incentives

  • Depending on household income, you may qualify for a grant of up to $5,000 to cover 50% of the cost of energy efficiency upgrades.  Your contractor will advise you of your eligibility.
  • If you do not qualify for the outright grant, you will be eligible to receive 10% of the cost of eligible upgrades back (up to a maximum of $3,000) after the work is complete. Low income households may qualify for free remediation.

•Your contractor can arrange low interest financing through NYSERDA.

  • An On-Bill Recovery Loan allows you to have your loan payments built into your utility bill so that you will have no extra bills to keep track of. Your monthly payments will be calculated not to exceed the expected amount the energy upgrades will save you on energy costs. Importantly, this means that in most cases, the homeowner will incur not a single dollar of out-of-pocket cost.
  • A Smart Energy Loan is an unsecured loan that offers flexible terms and simple repayment options like a typical personal loan.

13. How does the $200 donation to a Warwick-area non-profit work?

Any homeowner who gets an assessment done and then does some of the work recommended on the report is eligible for this important, community-building incentive. Once NYSERDA reports that the work is completed, the Incentive Fund administrator, currently Geoff Howard, will be in touch with you to find out your designated recipient.

The $200 check will come from Warwick Community 2000, through whom the fund is disbursed, and will have your name on the memo line.

14. What about commercial, multi-family or rental properties?

In general, these properties are either eligible under the Energy Star program or would qualify under sister programs.

15. Are there special programs available for lower-income applicants?

Yes, definitely. When you submit your audit request, you provide information about your income. If you qualify for free remediation, you will be notified.

16. What happens with On-Bill financing when I sell my home?

The loan stays on the utility account for that property meaning that it can be passed onto a new homeowner or new tenants. Again, if the new buyer doesn’t want to continue to pay for the loan then it can be settled upon sale. These are the options that a homeowner who took out an On-Bill Recovery Loan has, so it will not be a problem when you sell.

17. What if I have questions along the way?

This is another strength of the Energize Warwick program. There are people you can contact for every type of question:

Bill Makofske of Sustainable Warwick has agreed to serve voluntarily as independent and objective “Energy Advisor/Coach” and he will try to answer your technical questions.

18. The Energize Warwick Program seems so great; why isn’t everyone signing up?

Great question! Our experience is that once people find out about the program – how it works, how easy it is, what the benefits are – they do sign up. And the $200 incentive for Warwick non-profits is a terrific added bonus. That’s why Sustainable Warwick has undertaken to sponsor and promote Energize Warwick.

And importantly, you can be a promoter of this terrific program, too, by spreading the word. Tell everyone you know – friends, neighbors, members of groups you belong to – about your experience … and remember, they will qualify for the $200 non-profit donation as well.

19. What are the specific steps I need to do to sign up today?

Download an application
Fill in the NYSERDA application and submit on-line, or by mail.

Check this list of recommended contractors for Warwick to fill in on the application.  If you would like help choosing one, you may email Bill.

Get your energy bills for the last year or two from your utility, by visiting Orange & Rockland Utility, and clicking on My Account.  Enter your customer account number, click on View Billing History and then NYSE, and print it. If you use oil or propane, contact your oil/propane service company for a summary of the last two years, and include it with the application form.