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When The Heat Escapes Homes, So Does Money

And it’s widespread across New England, too. In Maine, nearly two-thirds of homes heat with oil, which is more than any other state in the nation. “New England’s building stock is older, and we’re in a climate that does require quite a bit of ...

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WNPR Menu News Frequently Asked Questions New England News Collaborative The Island Next Door Sports Fairfield Region Hartford Region Litchfield Region Middlesex and New London Region New Haven Region Tolland and Windham Region Programs Schedule Where We Live Colin McEnroe Show The Wheelhouse Faith Middleton Food Schmooze NEXT All Things Considered Fresh Air Here and Now Morning Edition All Radio Programs Arts Connecticut Garden Journal Live Music Health Opioid Epidemic Housing and Homelessness Affordable Care Act Health Equity and Access Project Mental Health Education Higher Education Special Education Students and Schools On Course Politics Connecticut Legislature Transportation Congress Business Non-Profits Small Business Manufacturing Science The Beaker Environment Technology Support Us Search When The Heat Escapes Homes, So Does Money By Patrick Skahill • 1 minute ago TweetShareGoogle+Email Geoff Wake / Creative Commons Listen Listening.. / 4:32 Every morning, Mary Hollis follows a routineBreakfast is oatmeal with granola, coffee, and maybe some yogurt or applesauce to help wash down her medicationDuring the winter, the retiree says she “shivers” through the meal“It’s never warm when people come to my house,” Hollis said“It just bothers me.” Hollis lives in a single-family home in HartfordThere’s that draft by the door where she eats breakfastAnd during the winter, chills seep around pipes and through the front foyer“If you go out that door right there -- if it were cold, or the wind were blowing -- you would think you was outside,” Hollis said“You can’t open itYou can’t open it and let it stay open for no time.” So a friend recommended Hollis get a free energy auditAs New England’s aging fleet of oil and nuclear plants retire, one way to make up for lost energy is to build more generation: new solar panels or wind turbinesBut there’s another untapped energy source out there -- inefficient homesA home energy audit can help with that -- by sealing up houses from wind and helping to lower heating billsBut as state budgets tighten, some of those programs are going awayOn an unseasonably warm winter day, Joel Gonzalez, an efficiency contractor from Home Comfort Practice, walked through Hollis' house -- knocking on walls and checking for air leaksLeaky holes along the stairwell were plugged with caulk, blocking outside airOld light bulbs were replaced with more efficient onesAnd door sweeps were attached, to block cold airGonzalez did some education, too“What is this red thing? That’s what I was going to ask youWhat is this for?,” said Hollis“That’s for the gasIf you ever want to turn off the gas, you just hit this switch,” Gonzalez saidAll New England states have some version of this home energy auditSpecialist comes to the house, there’s an energy assessment, and the homeowner gets recommendations or rebates for stuff like new appliances or insulationWhat’s different state to state, is how these services get paid forIn Connecticut, they’re paid for by an efficiency charge on the electric bills of all customersNatural gas customers pay a fee tooBut oil customers don’tFor awhile, money from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative had been helping out those customers, but legislators took that money to plug up a budget holeGrace Stewart, a community outreach coordinator for Home Comfort Practice, said that budget sweep is making for a lot of confusing conversations“I say, ‘Unfortunately, because of the budget cuts we’re no longer able to serve you,’” Stewart saidShe has to tell people if you pay an electric bill, but heat with oil, you’re out of luck“And they’re very upsetThey’re like, ‘Wait a minuteI’m paying into this programI’m getting nothing out of it? That’s not fair,’” Stewart said“Most of the low-income families in the state tend to be on oil or propane,” said John Latour, manager of weatherization services for Community Renewal TeamLast year, about 75 percent of his agency’s efficiency jobs were for homes heating with oil or propaneBecause of the cuts, CRT said that number is expected to drop, which is raising all sorts of red flagsIn Connecticut, oil is still the most popular home energy sourceAnd it’s widespread across New England, tooIn Maine, nearly two-thirds of homes heat with oil, which is more than any other state in the nation“New England’s building stock is older, and we’re in a climate that does require quite a bit of heating,” said Jamie Howland, who works on efficiency projects for Acadia Center, a clean energy advocacy organization.   Howland said New England states lead the nation when it comes to implementing energy efficiency, but lately, states like Connecticut have regressed, eliminating efficiency services to some of the region’s most needy homes“We’ve made good progress - but it’s not like we’re there yet,” Howland said“We need to get that building stock in good shape, and so there’s still a lot of work ahead of us both in Connecticut and the rest of the New England region.” Back at Mary Hollis’ kitchen table, Joel Gonzalez goes over work done to the houseIt’s hundreds of dollars worth of labor and materials -- all for freeAnd all because Hollis heats with gas, not with oilSo she’s feeling lucky, and she’s feeling warmer“When I used to sit here and eat my breakfast the air would be coming under my feet,” Hollis said“Earlier, we could see the light down there, so we knew airflow was coming in from that,” Gonzalez said“That’s completely stopped now.” And by stopping that airflow through her kitchen, Hollis is also stopping money from leaving her walletCustomers like Hollis stand to save about 35 percent on their utility bills, an important savings -- in the state with the highest electric rates in the continental U.STags: environmentenergyFeatureTweetShareGoogle+Email Related Content Last-Minute Cuts Equate To Hidden Tax On Your Utility Bill By Patrick Skahill • Dec 12, 2017 arne meyer / Creative Commons Listen Listening.. / 3:52 Connecticut’s new budget will move tens of millions of dollars out of energy efficiency programs, sweeping that money, instead, into the state’s general fundIt’s a piece of legislative math aimed at shoring up a multi-billion dollar budget deficitBut the decision will directly impact ratepayers and put energy contractors around the state out of work Lawmakers Criticize Cuts To Energy Efficiency Programs That They Voted For By Patrick Skahill • Feb 13, 2018 Jim Bowen / Creative Commons Listen Listening.. / 1:44 Legislators convened in Hartford Tuesday to decry a budget sweep, which took tens of millions of dollars out of energy efficiency programs and swept it into the state's general fund "Hidden" Energy Tax Means Fewer Efficiency Services For Connecticut Oil Customers By Patrick Skahill • Jan 16, 2018 Bert Kaufmann / Creative Commons Listen Listening.. / 4:28 Tens of millions of dollars that were to be set aside to make homes and businesses more energy efficient will instead be pumped into the state’s general fundIt’s a funding raid that’s been criticized as a “hidden tax” on utility billsHere’s what the changes mean for consumers -- and greenhouse gases

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