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November 10, 2011 Green Blog No Comments


November 9, 2011

Gaithersburg, MD

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

As winter weather and temperatures approach, homeowners start thinking of ways to save on their heating bills and how to weatherize their homes. Both low income and regular wage earners can tap into cost savings, either tax rebates or Maryland State and Montgomery County Energy Assistance Programs, depending on your income.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that the average U.S. family spends $2,200 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling.

Saving money on energy in the home also helps reduce one’s carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is a term used to describe reducing carbon emissions, gasses that warm the atmosphere.

The EPA makes many recommendations as to how a homeowner can start to reduce costs, from maintaining heating equipment to sealing leaks in the home. For example, the EPA suggests energy audits as a way to clearly know where your home is not energy efficient. The EPA provides a list of various energy auditors throughout the United States.

There are various local energy auditors. Solar Energy World, a local Gaithersburg solar power company, provides home energy audits for residences and businesses that want to save on energy bills.

According to Geoff Mirkin, VP of Solar Energy World, a four hour comprehensive audit of energy usage in a home costs $400. By applying Montgomery County and Pepco energy audit rebates, the auditor can help reduce the homeowner’s final cost to $100.

Energy audits should include looking at walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors. The area resistance to heat flow should be measured to search for the leakage rate or infiltration of air.

Gaithersburg residents, Tim and Denise Clark had an energy audit done to their home after their heating bill hit $900 and they couldn’t understand why. “We knew something was wrong because we were very conservative with our thermostat setting,” explained Denise Clark. “Our bedroom is typically 66 degrees Fahrenheit for example. We didn’t have a consumption issue per say, but just knew something was wrong in the house,” she said.

After conducting the energy audit, the Clarks had insulation added to the attic and found that their Pepco bill is typically 25% lower both in summer and winter months.

The State of Maryland provides up to $3,100 in tax rebates for home efficiency upgrades, which include: energy audits, whole house air sealing, attic insulation, duct sealing or replacement.

Thanks to the Recovery Act law of April 2009, low income earners can also weatherize their homes and meet energy efficient standards. To qualify, an individual has to earn less than $19, 100 a year. The income eligibility standards are per household size. A household with four people would qualify if the total annual income is less $39, 100.

Montgomery County was allotted $5,479,944 through The Maryland Energy Assistance Program.

Energy audits are also conducted in conjunction with the Energy Assistance Program. A home or apartment that qualifies under this program is visited by an energy auditor according James McAteer, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development program administrator. The auditor inspects the insulation, furnace and water heater. A contractor affiliated with the program completes the necessary work, followed by a quality control inspector that verifies that the work has been done correctly.

McAteer says that priority under the Energy Assistance Program is given to elderly, disabled or identified high energy users.

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