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Vt. wants more home weatherization

February 21, 2013 On the appropriately-named Winter Street in Montpelier, Vt., February's chill once really got to Rob Apple.

"This room used to be fairly cold," the homeowner said, standing in his basement.

Now, Apple's basement walls are covered in hard foam. A stone foundation is behind the foam, and Apple told New England Cable News it was full of cracks where frigid air would gush in.

"The comfort level of the house is dramatically improved," he said, describing how much warmer it is since contractors plugged air infiltration problem spots.

Apple, a ski resort employee, said he spent about $8,000 tightening up his 1850s property, and said he expects to make that back in six years or so, in the form of less heating oil burned. Apple's attic has thick layers of new insulation, too.

"Absolutely, I regret not doing it sooner," Apple said.

Now, the state of Vermont wants to see more residents follow Rob Apple's example. Under the 2013 "Home Energy Challenge," led by Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, at least 75 participating towns are encouraging 3 percent of their residents to weatherize their homes. It has the potential to save Vermonters more than $2.6-million on home heating bills over the next year, Energy Vermont said. Ambassadors in the communities have pledged to speak to their neighbors about their options, believing a friendly face can help convince people to make the moves.

The hope is by the year 2020, a quarter of Vermont's households, or 80,000 total, will be wasting less fuel. "To be able to save Vermonters a lot of money year after year after year, and to make their homes a lot more comfortable on top of that," Efficiency Vermont's Jim Merriam explained.

Merriam added that Efficiency Vermont helps connect consumers with incentives and rebate information to help reduce the costs of home upgrades. He noted that his group works with Vermonters who earn more than 60 percent of the state’s median income.

Many in the Vermont legislature have observed the Green Mountain State is unlikely to make that 2020 goal unless it helps low-income Vermonters with their home improvements. The big question is: how to pay for it?

Work like spraying insulation can be free to folks making 60 percent or less of the state's median income. Information on where to locate community action and weatherization agencies that do that work is available here.

To fund that free work, some Vt. lawmakers have floated tax proposals that'll surely be divisive, including one suggestion to tax heating fuel. That has been met with opposition.

"I'm of course not enthusiastic about another tax increase," Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt., told NECN last month.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has said he thinks millions of dollars can come from surcharges on so-called break-open lottery tickets sold in some private bars and clubs. Shumlin insists buttoning up homes will keep more cash in Vermont, benefit the environment, and spur job creation.

"It ensures we grow jobs by having a construction industry here in Vermont; jobs we can't export to India and China," Shumlin said Thursday.

Rob Apple is thrilled with the investments he's made in his home that have meant for a warmer winter indoors. And energy efficiency experts have told him the steps he took will also keep his home cooler during summer's heat.

For more information on the Vermont Home Energy Challenge, visit the Efficiency Vermont website.

Click here to read the full story from NECN

National Oilheat Research Alliance ECC is funded in part through the National Oilheat Research Alliance.