Energy expo offers tips for homeowners, builders

TUPPER LAKE – The Wild Center wants to help build a more energy-efficient Adirondacks.

On Thursday, the natural history museum held the third Build a Greener Adirondacks Expo. The event focused on educating local builders and contractors through a series of speakers and breakout sessions. There was information on how heat circulates through a home, renewable options for heating and cooling, and energy-efficient lighting.

“The interesting thing about the Adirondacks is, in order for our building stock to become greener, we’re talking about retrofits,” Wild Center Director Stephanie Ratcliffe said. “There’s a lot of old housing stock up here, so this was a mix of retrofit information and new construction.”

Retrofitting a house can mean going as deep into the structure as the building studs and working out from there. Since tackling an entire house at once is an enormous and expensive task, many homeowners opt to upgrade as repairs are made.

Ratcliffe said the best way to do that is to plan ahead instead of waiting for something to go wrong.

“As a homeowner, you almost have to have already done your research on what’s out there, because unless you know your furnace is about to go, and most people don’t, you probably haven’t already researched that,” Ratcliffe said. “We’re just trying to keep our ear to the ground to find out what people want to know so we can set up days like this so everyone’s ready. They can plan better, they can be ready when something happens, and if they’re building or retrofitting, they can learn how to do it.”

She described the expo as a “WD-40 between the information people desire and the people who can help them.

“Oftentimes, the sustainable solution is good for the environment and it’s good for the wallet,” Ratcliffe said. “In the short term you might have to invest in a new boiler or something, but when you look at the long term, it saves you money.”

The biggest hurdle for most people is making that initial investment.

Adirondack North Country Association Energy Program Coordinator Jamie Rogers, a former Lake Placid mayor, said his focus is on helping small commercial, nonprofit, workforce-development, multi-family and residential customers get involved with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority programs to upgrade their buildings.

“It all starts with the process of free energy assessment, and it’s income-based,” Rogers said. “If you earn under $104,000, it’s free. It’s really simple. You need 12 months of energy usage, and you mail it in with the application.”

The results of the assessment are broken out by cost, along with the potential energy-savings payback, so customers can pick which improvements they’d like to implement.

Some customers can also qualify for a loan at 3.49 percent interest and on-bill recovery, which puts home-energy improvement costs on a customer’s utility bill.

“It’s designed so the payment is broken out so your monthly expenses don’t increase,” Rogers said. Your energy improvements are offset by your energy usage. If they sell the house, that loan stays with the house.

He warned that Tupper Lake residents who are on the municipal electricity grid won’t qualify for the on-bill option, but they can still get the loan at 3.49 percent interest.

Rogers urged people to contact him at 518-891-6200 or if they’d like to learn more.

Kimberly DesChamp is outreach coordinator for the Economic Development Growth Extension program and said she works with economic developers across the state to promote NYSERDA programs. She does this by assessing a proposed project’s costs and then connecting the parties involved to programs that can assist with funding.

“I meet with businesses, manufacturers, industry and municipalities,” DesChamp said. “I focus on the larger energy users and try to present the basics of what the programs are and how they fit the projects businesses, manufacturers and municipalities are thinking about doing.”

DesChamp said NYSERDA incentives are not intended to offset the entire cost of a project, just 15 to 20 percent related to energy efficiency, energy conservation or renewable energy.

“Some programs have more than that to offer, but it varies by project,” DesChamp said. “It’s 20 percent of whatever your cost is to do something that’s energy efficient that gives you long-term savings, and it gives you help with the initial cost of getting that project off the ground.”

She said money is available for everything from new construction to upgrading lighting in an existing structure.

“There is a NYSERDA program for virtually anything you might want to do,” DesChamp said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that all cases will apply or be eligible for incentives, but it’s definitely worth exploring.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or