Energy efficiency, reducing heating and electric costs and limiting one’s carbon footprint have become increasingly critical for a growing number of Westchester residents.
For homeowners in the town and village of Ossining and the Village of Briarcliff Manor, that mission is about to get a major boost this week.
The three municipalities are set to collaborate with Sustainable Westchester to launch the EnergySmart HOMES program, an effort to promote residential fossil-fuel free heating and cooling solutions. They were among more than a dozen communities throughout the county to apply for acceptance into the program that will include reduced-cost home energy-efficiency assessments.
“A lot of people don’t realize that our homes certainly generate a huge amount of our carbon emissions and together we can change the way we heat and cool our homes and the way they’re insulated to make them more energy efficient,” said Lauren Brois, director of the EnergySmart HOMES program for Sustainable Westchester.
Partnering with the Briarcliff Sustainability Committee and Green Ossining, the program will help connect residents to sign up for an assessment to learn how energy use can be reduced while making their homes more comfortable year-round and saving money on utility bills, Brois said.
If a homeowner decides to move forward in making improvements to their home energy systems, whether that’s installing geothermal, air pumps, energy-efficiency products or simply replacing a house’s insulation, they can be put in contact with a contractor participating in the program to have a reduced price for the work, she said.
Funding for the program is through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Village of Ossining Mayor Rika Levin said being selected for the program is crucial for her community because about 70 percent of the homes in the village were built in the 1970s or earlier, suggesting that there is a significant opportunity for energy-efficiency savings. There are about 26,000 residents in the village.
“I think it’s great for the residents,” Levin said. “We have a lot of older homes. They were built at a time when we were not thinking about carbon footprints. So the work (Sustainable Westchester) is doing with the municipalities, I think will be great for the residents.”
Pradma Sridhar, a member of the Briarcliff Sustainability Committee, said the committee was startled to learn that the combined zip codes of Ossining and Briarcliff have some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions in the entire county.
“So we figured it’s really important for residents to understand all the options that we have to reduce their household emissions of greenhouse gases,” Sridhar said.
As a prelude an online kick off on Thursday, Ossining and Briarcliff officials joined Brois and others from Sustainable Westchester at last Saturday’s Ossining Farmers Market to start familiarizing the communities’ residents about the program.
Ossining Supervisor Dana Levenberg said she looked forward to the latest sustainability initiative the town is participating in. The town’s food scrap recycling and participation in the community choice aggregation program were all well-received and she hoped residents will want to learn about how to improve their homes this Thursday evening.
“It will be a great opportunity for everybody to learn about the contractors who are going to be working with us, whether it’s geothermal or an air pump system that works best for your home, what you can do, how much you can save, what kind of initiatives are going to be available for you as well as your home could actually be more comfortable and save energy and reduce carbon emissions at the same time,” Levenberg said.
Reducing carbon emissions is an international effort, said Dorian Burden, a member of Green Ossining. However, it must start at the local level.
“Climate change is a global issue but it needs to be addressed community by community and household by household,” Burden said.
For any community member that missed Thursday’s online kick off, there will be a second opportunity on Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. Visit www.sustainablewestchester.org for more details.
While homeowners outside Ossining and Briarcliff Manor won’t be eligible for the low-cost benefits of the program, anyone in the county can contact Sustainable Westchester to get more information on making their home more energy efficient, Brois said.