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'Energizing' Cortlandt Homes Could Save Big Bucks

CORTLANDT, N.Y. – An Energize Cortlandt website launched Thursday to encourage homeowners to use direct New York State subsidies to make their homes more energy efficient, and in the process, more comfortable. However, those in charge of the program say it's still tough to convince consumers the home improvements are easy and affordable.

"Ultimately, the homes should have more value because they should cost less," said Tom Bregman, director of the Energize Cortlandt program.

The Energize program is a public relations extension of the Energize New York program, which uses direct state subsidies of up to 50 percent to encourage homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, reducing energy bills. For homeowners earning less than $210,000 annually, the program provides a free energy assessment that identifies modifications that could make a home use less energy. Common modifications work to seal a home, preventing the loss of heated and cooled air.

Direct state subsidies, literally a "check in the mail" when the homeowner completes the upgrades, are available as 10 percent of the cost of any improvements regardless of income, and up to 50 percent for couples making less than $69,000 in northern Westchester.

Bregman said that, after the assessment, most modifications take between three and five days. Financing is provided by the state through low-interest loans. After averaging annual energy cost, the loans are calculated so consumers spend on financing only what they save in energy cost. The result is often net savings and a more comfortable home, he said.

Despite financing, contractor certification and reviews, testimonials and likely positive cash-flow for consumers provided by the Energize program, Bregman likens consumer sentiment to convincing the average 1970s American to quit smoking and wear seat belts.

"We want to make energized homes the new normal," said Bregman.

Before consumers could consult with advocates at the Energize program, it existed through the state. Without energy consultants, reviews of contractors and help with paperwork, however, Bregman said fewer than 10 percent of consumers were going through with modifications after receiving a free assessment.

The program has brought that up to about one-in-three, he said. Collectively, if one-in-three people in the entire 60,000-home town of Cortlandt "energized" their homes, homeowners would save $4.5 million annually. Across NWEAC's 15-municipality territory, the savings could be $19 million annually.

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