Program saves fuel, cash for homeowners

Sharon Steuer stands in the basement of her Sharon Steuer stands in the basement of her Smithtown home. She sought an energy audit under the Long Island Green Homes program, and the extra insulation and sealing has helped her say about $700, she says. (Feb. 7, 2013) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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Sharon Steuer just wanted to get her walk-in closet checked.

“It was like an icebox,” she said. “And there were certain times that my house would have drafts.”

Steuer, 66, of Smithtown, got more than she expected after she applied for the Long Island Green Homes program, which includes an energy audit of the home, recommendations on improvements to reduce energy costs and low-interest loans through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority that may allow homeowners to make upgrades with no out-of-pocket expenses.

In January 2012, contractors insulated Steuer's attic, replaced dryer vents, wrapped basement pipes and filled cracks in its foundation.

“It's one of the best things that I've ever done for my house,” she said, adding that she's saved more than $700 since the work was completed. “There are just so many places where you're losing air that I wasn't aware of.”

A representative from the Smithtown Planning Department and a licensed contractor are scheduled to discuss the program and answer questions beginning Monday night through Thursday at each Smithtown Special Library District branch.

Monday's presentation is scheduled at the main library branch at 7 p.m. but because of the weather, call the library at 631-265-2072 to see if the branch is open.

“The work pays for itself” through lower energy bills, said Allyson Murray, the town's environmental planner. “You are reducing the amount of energy that you're consuming . . . and you're going to be a lot more comfortable in your home.”

Matt Schwalb, 42, of Smithtown, said he was surprised by the difference in insulating his 24 high hat lights and attic.

“I definitely noticed a decrease in gallons used in the oil,” he said. “Anything that you can do to help out is a good thing.”

Smithtown belongs to the Long Island Green Homes Consortium, formed in 2010 with six other Long Island towns -- Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip, North Hempstead and Southampton -- and other organizations.

The nonprofit Community Development Corp. of Long Island received a $5 million federal-state grant in 2010 to act as a regional coordinator among the towns. Smithtown received $100,000 per year from the grant, which lasts through this fall, to market and administer the program. There have been 2,943 audits completed across Long Island between the inception of the program in 2009 and early this year, CDC officials said, and 1,543 of those homeowners have had retrofit work completed.

About 260 Smithtown residents have received energy audits -- free for homeowners with an annual income below $215,000, Murray said. At least 45 Smithtown residents have paid for improvements through a low-interest state loan, or loans that can be paid via the homeowner's electric bill, she said.

“The proof is in the pudding,” said Marianne Garvin, president and chief executive of the CDC. “There's a lot of work that can be done that doesn't cost a lot, but has a lot of savings.”

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

Green Homes workshops are set for the following days, but please call the library at 631-265-2072 to check if the branch is open:

Monday, 7 to 8 p.m., Smithtown Main Library, 1 North Country Rd., Smithtown.

Tuesday, 7 to 8 p.m., Kings Park Branch, 1 Church St., Kings Park.

Wednesday, 7 to 8 p.m., Commack Branch, 3 Indian Head Rd., Commack.

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Thursday, 7 to 8 p.m., Nesconset Branch, 148 Smithtown Blvd., Nesconset.

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