The diocesan Care for Creation Committee and Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish will team up with NYSERDA to save the planet and help people save some money. The Blasdell parish will host an energy workshop on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Michele Evanson, outreach program coordinator for Honeywell Smart Grid Solutions, will explain the EmPower New York program that provides no-cost efficiency solutions to income-eligible New Yorkers. Nearly 100,000 families across the state already save energy and money with the EmPower program.
Participants in the EmPower program will receive an electric reduction audit from NYSERDA, which measures air leakage and electricity usage. NYSERDA will determine what measures should be taken to improve energy efficiency. This may include replacing light bulbs or refrigerators with updated models and/or insulating the house.
"It's geared to assist (income-qualified households) to lower the cost of their energy use in the household by replacing old and inefficient appliances that include old refrigerators and/or freezers, depending on how old they are," explained Evanson. "We determine that the savings to the customer is beneficial. We also go in and replace lighting and take out old incandescent light bulbs and put in either compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. They do an in-home energy education piece for the individuals who are renters or homeowners to assist them in different ways that they might cut costs within their household. And in some limited situations, they might do some insulation and other home efficiency measures that might include sidewall and attic insulation and sealing up the home."
Inspectors will also check for ambient CO and offer in-home education. "Most contractors have the consumer walk through the household with them, so they can show them what they are doing and teach them as well," Evanson said.
The program is open to homeowners as well as renters, with permission from landlords. A savings to investment ratio is used to determine if a no-cost replacement is needed.
"We want the customer to benefit. They're not saving money if we put in a unit of equal measure," Evanson said.
Income eligibility is based on HEAP Award guidelines. If participants bring in HEAP award letters or SNAP benefit letters, Evanson can enroll them at the meeting and process them the next day.
For those who do not qualify for the free upgrades, a 50-percent shared program and 10-percent off are also available. All offer a free or low-cost audit. The audit is thorough and takes over an hour.
"You have to open your home up to the inspector," said Carol Anne Cornelius, energy manager for the Diocese of Buffalo. "The inspector looks over every inch, even your closet because there might be a light bulb in your closet. There may be an attic hatch in your closet. There may be a hole in the roof that nobody knows about because it is in a closet. Every inch of your home is inspected from bottom to top. All of your appliances, heating and kitchen appliances are tested."
Cornelius has watched NYSERDA perform audits on churches, schools and rectories, as well as residential homes. She knows of one couple that had their 1863 house insulated for the first time after an audit. They now save $149 a month on heating bills.
Savings will depend on the age, type and size of the house and its current efficiency. For newer homes or homes that have undergone major renovations, it may not be cost effective to replace appliances.
The program is sponsored by the diocesan Care for Creation Committee, whose mission is to educate Catholics about Church teaching on the environment.
Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ, director of the committee, will open with the program with prayer, then introduce Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si" and explain how it relates to the environment.
"To help make better use of energy and conserve the resources of the earth, that's really what its all about," said Jim Chlebowy from Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, who organized the event.
Pope Francis has declared Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. St. John the Baptist Parish in Kenmore will have a 7 p.m. prayer service to observe the special day.