New Boston Program Hands Out Free Energy Improvements

West Roxbury Patch
Posted on September 29, 2010
by Mike Deehan

A new city of Boston program, launched in partnership with energy efficiency and utility companies could potentially save residents upwards of $3,500 toward improvements that make city homes more efficient.

The Renew Boston program, which launched last month, utilizes existing rebate programs and state-mandated grants from utility companies to offer a set of energy efficiency improvements to Boston’s aging housing stock.

Monday night’s meeting, organized by the group West Roxbury Saves Energy, packed the meeting room at the West Roxbury Library to a standing-room-only capacity audience.

Residents at a Renew Boston meeting

Residents looking to save on heating bills sign up for the Renew Boston program at a meeting organized by West Roxbury Saves Energy.

Joe Walsh, manager of the city’s energy efficiency program, introduced the mostly older crown to the program. Many raised their hands when Walsh asked if they had taken previous steps to make their homes more efficient.

“This is a longterm improvement to your home that the city is going to pay for,” Walsh said.

The entire program takes place over four phases, each one adding to the fuel efficiency and cost-saving available to the utility payer. Each phase is free to those enrolled in the program.

According to program organizers, the first step is an energy audit, which normally would cost $300, where professionals from Next Step Living, a home improvement company focused on energy efficiency, visit the home and determine where its efficiency weaknesses are. The crews will identify weatherizing issues the home may need, such as leaky doors and windows, as well as install more efficient water fixtures and compact florescent light bulbs.

“[Efficiency] all starts at the first visit, you start saving right away,” said Next Step Living’s Gabe Shapiro, who said that residents could expect savings of between $500 and $900 annually as a result of the Renew Boston improvements.

Next, crews air-seal the house, a $640 value according to the program, in preparation for installing additional insulation. Insulation can cost as much as $1,800 and can dramatically lower the monthly heating costs of a home, said Renew Boston staff.

Walsh stressed that Renew Boston is not just for lower income Bostonians, saying that even those with income above the maximum allowed for the program can still apply for a portion of the aid.

“A lot of folks will qualify for this free program from the city,” Walsh said.

The program, which is specifically for homes with one to four units, is expected to run through March of 2012 and is already underway. Houses with multiple units can apply for the $3,500 for each unit as long as each tenant enrolls in the program and is granted permission by the homeowner.

Shapiro said that Next Step Living’s crews typically take three to four weeks to schedule an audit visit and an additional three to four weeks before the major improvments can be installed. Interested Boston residents can sign up for the program at www.renewboston.org or by calling 617-635-SAVE.