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The Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force, a joint board of Durham and Middlefield, hopes to use energy audits to reduce home electricity useage. | Mark Dionne / Town Times

Officials encourage energy audits

There has been a push for home energy audits from town officials, businesses, and utility companies in recent months. The results, at least according to one official, have been mixed.

The audits attempt to make individual homes more energy efficient. According to a press release from the Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force, which is coordinating the efforts, the audits can result in “an average savings of $300 or more every year.”

According to Nancy Winship-Poole, a member of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force, the audits are worthwhile for every homeowner. “The value is way above and beyond the cost,” Winship-Poole said. The audits cost $75 for electric or natural gas costumers and $99 for propane and oil users, with programs to waive the fee based on need.

Homes are put through a blower test to gauge leaks. Items such as plumbing, appliances, and furnaces are inspected. The audit includes on-the-spot improvements like energy efficient light bulbs and weather stripping.

“There’s always going to be things that you can do,” said Winship-Poole, who pointed out that a recent energy audit found areas to improve in her home even though it had undergone an audit only a few years earlier.

The Clean Energy and Sustainability Task Force selected three contractors, Energy Resources Group, Next Step Living, and Competitive Resources, Inc., out of approximately a dozen authorized state-wide. The task force gave preference to local contractors.

The audit, according to Winship-Poole, takes about four hours with a team of three inspectors.

Durham and Middlefield officials are interested in the audits because they earn both a $25 per audit donation to the towns’ fuel bank and points that can be applied to Bright Idea Grants. The boards of selectmen from both towns voted to enter into the agreements for the programs.

The companies conducting the audit also receive payments from utility companies such as Connecticut Light & Power, which funds the program through fees on utility bills.

According to Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw, the audits have not been popular in town.

“I can’t name one person who has gotten the audit, including me,” said Brayshaw. According to Brayshaw, he signed up at one of the publicity events, but never heard from an auditor. Brayshaw has since learned that his home is scheduled for an audit in August.

Brayshaw spoke proudly of other energy-efficient initiatives around Middlefield. The energy industry is, in Brayshaw’s words, “in flux.”

“All these programs, there isn’t a week that goes by that Middlefield doesn’t get a request for something,” Brayshaw said.

Durham First Selectman Laura Francis spoke more positively about the set up, but said she would not have exact participation figures until the end of the program in August.

Durham started with the program earlier than Middlefield. Durham has also applied town points, earned in part from programs other than the energy audits like the recent successful solar power initiative, for a $5,000 grant. The grant is targeted for energy improvements or environmental education.

Within a small sample of Durham residents who have signed their homes up for the program, the audits ran as long as six hours, and included things like on-the-spot repair of furnace and window leaks and faucet and shower head upgrades. The audits include a report on estimated savings from completed and proposed updates.

For suggested improvements on larger energy-efficient investments, the auditing companies offer rebates and low-interest loans.

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