City Covers Cost of Winterizing Residents’ Homes

From The Roslindale–West Roxbury Bulletin
September 30, 2010
by Scott Wachtler

Free energy upgrades are available, and the city of Boston wants residents to know about it. The upgrades are available to qualifying residents through Mayor Thomas Menino’s Renew Boston initiative, which has partnered with NSTAR and National Grid.

“The main goal of this program is to improve the energy efficiency of the building stock in the city,” said Joe Walsh, manager of the citywide program.

Renew Boston and its partners will provide participating residents with a range of no-cost efficiency services, including a comprehensive home energy assessment and up to $3,500 in insulation and air sealing. Other free energy products may be available depending on the results of the home energy assessment.

The program is described as a low-hassle way to lower energy bills, increase the value of Boston homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On Monday, the community organization West Roxbury Saves Energy hosted Walsh and Gabe Shapiro from Renew Boston at the West Roxbury Library for an information session about the program. Roslindale and West Roxbury residents packed the room, all eager to hear how they could participate.

“Electric and heat bills have been going up and up, and this is an effort to help manage that cost in long-term, sustainable ways, and the city can help to pay for upgrades,” Walsh said. “It’s important to know that residents can make their homes more energy efficient without installing solar panels on their roof.”

Shapiro said that once resdients call the 635-SAVE number, representatives will guide residents through the process. If a resident qualifies, they will send out a team to do an energy audit on the resident’s home. Once the audit is done, contractors will be sent in to do the weatherization work.

“We’ll first swap out old light bulbs and replace them with compact fluorescent light bulbs,” Shapiro said. “We’ll even replace your water fixtures with new energy efficient ones.”

Part of the funding for the program has come from the fees electric companies charge users to upgrade their equipment.

The program is open to home owners and retners with their landlord’s permission and is intended for people who don’t usually qualify for assistance programs.

“We want to make it easy for people to participate in this program,” Walsh said. “This is the first time in the country that utility companies are partnering with a city to do a program like this.”

However, Walsh said the program does have limited resources and would likely be able to serve the first 3,000 people.

Margaret Fincher of Roslindale was at the Monday meeting to get more information. Renew Boston has already done an energy audit on her home.

“They’ve replaced my bulbs and faucets and now I’m waiting have the sealing done,” she said.

She said her 62-year-old home is drafty, and during the winter she can see the drapes move because of the cold, outside air coming through, even when the windows are closed.

Renew Boston’s annual household income eligibility guidelines are as follows: One-person household, $30,751 to $61,502; two-person household, $40,213 to $80,426; three-person household,$49,675 to $99,350; four-person household, $59,137 to $118,274; five-person household, $68,598 to $137,196; six-person household, $78,060 to $156,120.

Residents with incomes below these limits should contact ABCD at 617-357-6012. Residents who make more than the guidelines allow for are also encouraged to call 635-SAVE so they can be assisted through the state program that can also help with the costs of energy upgrades.