Program provides energy efficiency upgrades

August 25, 2011 3:54:37 PM PDT
The hot weather isn't going anywhere, and that means high cooling bills. But there may be some long term relief coming. The city of Houston is performing energy audits to qualified homes and spending thousands to improve energy efficiency.

If your power bill is sky high, the problem could be with your home. If your house is not energy efficient, it can add $75 to $100 a month to your power bill.

Erica Galvan's home was an energy hog.

"My bills were coming out to $400 to $500 a month," she said.

Galvan says even with the A/C set at 65 degrees, the home never really felt comfortable.

"The house would be warm in here, like the A/C wasn't even working at all," she said.

So Galvan applied for a home energy makeover with the city of Houston and a team went right to work.

"We installed a couple of bath fans in the bathrooms to provide humidity removal. We also did a tune up on the A/C system. We installed some attic insulation and replaced two windows," said Bernardo Lopez with Standard Renewable Energy.

Using funds from the Houston Residential Energy Efficiency Program, Lopez and a team of workers put about $4,000 in improvements to the home and it is already paying off.

The city says homes in the program have cut their power bill by about 30 percent; for Galvan that's $75 in savings each month.

City officials say applications for the program remain constant.

"We have had more applicants, quite frankly, in the pipeline than we can handle," said Beto Bautista with the city of Houston.

Bautista says home owners who want to take part in the energy improvement program cannot make more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That means a family of four can not earn more than $44,100.

The money for the improvements comes from a federal grant, and homes that qualify can get up to $6,500 in energy improvements.

"Home owners pay nothing; it's all grant funded," Bautista said.

This program is run by the city of Houston and to qualify, you must apply.

One word of warning. We have seen companies cold calling homeowners promising energy efficiency audits, but they end up charging for the improvements, so be sure not to fall for a potential scam.

Several companies also offer their own energy audits. They run about $300 to $600, but again, those would be companies that you call.

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