New York State has officially promoted home energy upgrades since 2001. Yet participation has been modest state-wide. However, since 2009 participation rates in home energy upgrades have skyrocketed each year in northern Westchester. Why?
The EnergizeNY program takes the state’s resources and adds one very significant component that had been missing: word-of-mouth, grassroots outreach. Here is the fuller story.
Most homeowners buy more energy than their home needs–sometimes 20 or 30% more. Most homes are leaky, drafty, and poorly insulated. As a result your heating or cooling dollars are wasted, often simply lost to the great outdoors.
Using a “whole house” approach to diagnose the most cost-effective upgrades for your particular home, the Home Performance program has been building momentum. Locally, this program is called EnergizeNY.
Since 2001, New Yorkers have completed almost 47,000 upgrades state-wide. While that is a lot of homes, it represents a very small proportion of the state’s homes. The completed upgrades represent roughly $360,000,000 of investment by homeowners. In other words, the air-sealing and insulation upgrade costs roughly $7,700 on average per home.
The average projected energy savings per year is $650 per home. Most of the measures installed, such as insulation, have a long life expectancy. So the savings will repeat themselves every year for 20 years or more.
In numerous homes the actual energy savings have been over 30% after accounting for differences in weather before and after the upgrades.
Piloted since 2010 in Bedford, EnergizeNY asks local municipal leaders to adopt the program and designate existing local groups as ‘champions’ to sponsor outreach events. For example, in Bedford this effort started with the garden club. In Somers, the Lions Club is spreading the word to its members. In Ossining, Mount Kisco, Pound Ridge and Cortlandt, different existing organizations are signing on to spread the word to their members.
In other words, rather than rely on a flyer from Albany, the Energize communities are organizing local presentations and testimonials about how residents have already made their home more comfortable to live in and less expensive to operate.
What difference has this made? In the communities that adopted the EnergizeNY approach, the annual participation rate has climbed 6 times faster than the rest of the state.
Westchester County had always lagged well behind the state in participation, with rates only 1/3 that of the entire state. So northern Westchester homeowners are now participating at a rate that is 18 times higher than in southern Westchester.
Even more telling, during 2011 and 2012, participation rates state-wide fell a bit from the highs achieved in 2010—except in northern Westcheseter. There, EnergizeNY kept bubbling along—and you guessed it—participation has continued to climb every year, in direct contrast to elsewhere. The difference is the Energize Factor: using local existing groups to deliver the savings message to friends and neighbors.
The more homes upgraded, the more homeowners who will be more comfortable for less money.
Technical note: The following metric of completed upgrades per year versus total housing units really highlights the relative and very positive impact of NWEAC’s Energize launches in Bedford and the surrounding municipaltlies.
- The entire NYS has never exceeded 0.087% per year participation(achieved in 2011).
- The Mid-Hudson Region has never exceeded 0.086% (achieved in 2011 for Dutchess, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester combined).
- Westchester has never exceeded 0.031% (achieved in 2010).
- Northern Westchester (NWEAC’s 14 municipalities) has climbed steadily to reach 0.106% (achieved in first 8 months of 2012).
- The Energize launched communities (a subset of the NWEAC municipalities) have climbed steadily to reach 0.575% (achieved in first 8 months of 2012).
These numbers are small percentages in absolute terms, but It is easy to point out that Energized communities are performing between 6 and 18 (!!) times better than the state, region or county. (source: NYSERDA’s history for Home Performance with ENERGY STAR: 2001-2012)