A new program aims to help Long Islanders save on energy bills as winter nears.

Power Up Communities, a project run by the Long Island Progressive Coalition, helps connect homeowners to contractors who will offer a free audit of their homes to identify drafts and suggest insulation work that can be done to make their houses more energy efficient and less expensive to heat.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

After the audit -- which costs around $300 for an average customer -- homeowners are given estimates on how much it would cost to have work done. Power Up Communities then works with the homeowners to help them finance the process.

"We help the homeowner learn about the different programs, financial opportunities and rebates that are available that ordinarily they may not know about," said Ed Laborde, project manager for Power Up Communities. "For some residents, we go a step further and help them fill out" forms. "A lot of people . . . have so much to do that this shouldn't be an added burden to them."

One method that can reduce upfront costs for customers is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's "On-Bill Recovery" program, run through the Long Island Power Authority.

The approach allows the cost of the contractor's work to be paid through energy bills over time. The cost of upgrading a home to be more energy efficient is usually between $13,000 and $15,000, Laborde said.

Power Up Communities launched last year, and has helped upgrade 30 homes so far.