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Community forum in Hamburg outlines energy efficiency

HOW TO SAVE — Kate Howard, the outreach program manager for PUSH Buffalo, is pictured speaking about the various energy efficiency programs available to local residents, during a community forum held at the Hamburg Town Hall. Photo by Steve Dlugosz.
HAMBURG — In a stated effort of informing local residents about the options at their disposal in regard to qualifying for home energy assistance, a community forum was held March 8 at the Hamburg Town Hall, sponsored by State Assemblyman Sean Ryan’s office.

The event featured members of People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo and explained to those in attendance the benefits of applying for such programs.

PUSH Outreach Manager Kate Howard outlined the PUSH Green Energy Efficiency Program, noting that PUSH is a nonprofit, independent organization that works in coordination with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which is part of a New York-wide stated effort to make homes more efficient and comfortable, while reducing energy burdens in local communities.

Three legislative pieces include a comprehensive energy assessment, which was said to be free of charge for households having an income of $132,200 or less, representing more than 90 percent of local households; a pair of financing options, including the on-bill recovery system, which allows financing energy efficiency improvements to a home through a charge on utility bills, and the smart energy loan, which contains 3.9 percent interest, while allowing typically between $3,000 and $13,000 in loans; and working with community groups such as PUSH, which is one of 18 statewide outreach organizations.

“We know we could probably benefit here to having warmer homes, especially with those that are older homes,” Howard said, adding that applicants have to be New York state residents, and that advocated homes in the process must be residential buildings and not mixed-use structures. She said that the comprehensive energy assessment “looks at your house in a ‘systems’ approach.”

That assessment was said to take 1 1/2 – three hours long and includes a detailed report of all upgrade needs. It provides vital health and safety checks, such as carbon monoxide back drafting and mold detection.

Additionally, the assessment helps determine what energy efficient upgrades are needed, and will qualify future upgrade work for cash rebates from NYS, PUSH representatives said. Hot water tanks, insulation in walls and building air flow standards were scrutinized items of the assessment. An energy auditor will file a follow-up report, once the assessment is completed.

Other NYS programs available to residents include EmPower New York, in which homeowners or renters earning 60 percent of the median household income qualify for energy efficient solutions at no cost, and Assisted Home Performance with STAR, which provides free home energy assessments and grants of up to $5,000, to pay up to 50 percent of the cost of energy upgrades, for those who earn up to 80 percent of the area median household income.

Howard said that PUSH conducts workforce development and engages contractors, to assist residents and help build the local economy. Encouraging less use of fossil fuels was said to be another objective.

Ryan’s office had sponsored a December community forum regarding energy efficiency programs in Blasdell. Hamburg resident Linda McQuillen said that she attended the event, seeing it as an opportunity to utilize available programs. She later applied for, and was approved for, the Smart Energy Loan program, which she described as taking approximately one day in length.

“I submitted paperwork to NYSERDA and within 24 hours I received notice that I was approved,” McQuillen told The Sun.

PUSH said that 30 percent of money spent on heating and cooling homes on average is wasted.

“The free home energy assessment will help people to identify necessary upgrades, and the PUSH Green program will provide information on ways homeowners can pay for these upgrades,” Ryan said. “I thank PUSH Buffalo for partnering with New York state to create this great program that will help to improve homes in Erie County and create greener communities.”

For more information about this program, visit www.pushgreenwny.org.
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