When Annalisa and Anthony Olivas moved into their new home on Oriole Path in Liverpool, they discovered that it needed more than new curtains and a fresh coat of paint.
“When we had the home inspector come, the number one thing on his list was to upgrade the windows and the insulation,” Annalisa said. “We took his advice.”
The couple called GreenHomes by Entherm, a contractor in Syracuse affiliated with Home Performance by Energy Star. The program is designed to lower energy costs, reduce energy demands and protect the environment. It is sponsored by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. GreenHomes helped the Olivases install new windows, new insulation, a new furnace/boiler, a programmable thermostat and six energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
It also helped Home Performance by Energy Star to pass an important milestone. Thanks to the improvements made by the Olivases, the statewide program has helped over 13,600 residents to invest more than $100 million in energy improvements.
Annalisa Olivas said that the cost of the improvements was very reasonable. “The price was about in the range we expected,” she said. “We checked into a few different companies and we ended up going with [GreenHomes].”
The work was completed on the home in late October of last year.
Annalisa said that, since the couple and their three children moved into the home in July, they don’t know how the heating bills have been affected, but they have seen a difference.
“When we moved in, the neighbors told us that we’d have such bad icicles that we wouldn’t be able to even go on the patio in the winter,” she said. “But we’ve had no icicles.”
Saving the world, one home at a time
The improvements at the Olivas home are typical of those made through the Home Performance with Energy Star program. A release from Home Performance said that the improvements the Olivases made will save them $1,668 annually on their energy bills, an amount that will allow them to recoup their investment in energy improvements within five years.
“Over 13,600 homes have invested more than $100 million in energy efficiency in New York state,” said Peter Smith of Home Performance with Energy Star. “We’re working to make homes more energy efficient and to save consumers money.”
Home Performance with Energy Star got its start here in Syracuse five years ago, Smith said.
“At the time, we asked, does our model make sense economically?” he said. “Is there a demand for it? What could conservation do for our customers and our environment? In the last five years, we’ve found that the model does work.”
Smith said the program, which is already well used across Upstate New York, is now expanding into Westchester and New York City.
“It’s a very different marketplace, but it’s a good model,” Smith said. “It can be taken to an urban environment.”
Home Performance works with certified contractors or “building scientists,” as Smith called them, to evaluate the energy efficiency of a home and to determine what changes can be made to improve that efficiency.
“They look at the whole house,” he said. “They see the house as a living organism. How does it breathe? How does it operate? The contractors we work with apply very high-tech building science like blower doors or sealing the gaps in the insulation. They also test heating systems, making sure that there are no leaks and that everything is operating efficiently.”
Indeed, the first thing a contractor working with Home Performance with Energy Star does is assess the home to identify potential improvements, examining heating and cooling equipment, insulation and air leakage. The assessments also ensure that all equipment in the home is working properly and don’t pose a health and safety threat to homeowners. If the homeowners choose to make improvements, the contractor will again assess the safety of the equipment after the improvements are made.
Who says you can’t go home?
Smith said he was thrilled to be back in the Syracuse area and to have such an important milestone be reached thanks to residents of the area in which the company started.
“We’re very pleased,” he said. “We started here, and we’re back to celebrate this great success.”
Smith pointed out that the Olivases are just like any other family who decided to do something about poor energy efficiency. “They’re just average consumers,” he said. “It’s like in a store when someone’s the millionth customer. Like other people, they decided to do something to save money and live more comfortably.”
Now that energy efficiency is becoming a priority, Home Performance is working with builders to make new homes as efficient as possible.
Smith said that the move is good for consumers and for the world.
“We’re saving energy and the environment,” he said.
For more information about Home Performance with Energy Star or to find a certified contractor, visit GetEnergySmart.org or call 1-877-NY-SMART.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.