Duluth homeowners can save money with new energy program
If someone gave you a low-cost way to keep the drafts out of your house and save on energy costs, would you take it? A coalition made up of the city of Duluth, Minnesota Power and area nonprofits is offering to help homeowners do just that using ...
If someone gave you a low-cost way to keep the drafts out of your house and save on energy costs, would you take it?
A coalition made up of the city of Duluth, Minnesota Power and area nonprofits is offering to help homeowners do just that using federal stimulus money.
Advocates say the program, which offers loans to homeowners to make their homes energy-efficient, is the first initiative in the state that could substantially reduce home energy costs while bringing green jobs to the city. It also will allow homeowners to pay for the upgrades fairly painlessly, with loan payments tied to home energy savings.
"Every community in the nation has different opportunities when it comes to this new green economy," Duluth Mayor Don Ness said. "In the city of Duluth, we saw our greatest opportunity was to reduce energy consumption as it relates to heating our homes."
By late this year, homeowners will be able to call what's being described as a one-stop shop to get a home energy audit. While the city and Minnesota Power already provide free home energy audits, Erik Schlacks, the city's gas and energy coordinator, said those available through the new Duluth Energy Efficiency Program will be far more comprehensive, able to pinpoint where heat is lost and able to suggest solutions and providers to fix the problems.
The audits won't be free, said Dean Talbott, a program manager with Minnesota Power, and the home upgrades would average about $4,000 to $6,000, including properly sealing a house and recommending new appliances.
But loans will be available that will pay for themselves, tapping about $1.5 million in federal stimulus money, said city Councilor Tony Cuneo, a DEEP planning team member. Borrowers would pay back the loan with payments equal to or less than their monthly energy savings. Loans could typically be repaid in eight to 10 years, according to program
"If we can offer this program without impacting the pocketbook each month, it's one of the main barriers to [home energy efficiency] we could take away," Cuneo said. "There are other cities around the state that will be looking to us."
Minnesota Power has run a pilot program over the past two years that showed individual homeowners can save 20 percent to 30 percent on their energy bills, Talbott said.
"Most homes in Duluth have excessive air leakage," he said.
An audited home will be given a home energy rating that DEEP leaders said they hope will become a standard in the community.
"The homeowners will know what their rating is, and they'll know how that compares to other households in the community," Talbott said. "What we're trying to target is the high-energy use households."
Learn more about the energy savings
Homeowners or contractors who want more information on the home energy audits and loans should call the Duluth Community Development office at(218) 730-5480 or City Councilor Tony Cuneo at (218) 726-5430.