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If you have extremely limited resources, the most important measures to take are those that will lead to the most immediate savings, in the hopes of subsequently taking further steps that will have longer-term impact. Energy-efficient light bulbs, for instance, will begin saving you money from the moment you install them. Since many utilities are beginning to subsidize the purchase of new compact fluorescent bulbs, it is a good idea to check with your local electric company for discounts before buying from a retailer.
Low-Income Weatherization Programs, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, are available in most states and free to eligible applicants. Certified energy auditors compile data using computerized work sheets to determine which energy conservation measures are most effective for your home. Based upon these results, the homeowner can modify or convert inefficient heating systems, add insulation, draft-proof, and take other measures—again, at no charge for those who qualify.
It may also be worthwhile to have your home inspected for a home energy rating by Energy Rated Homes (ERH). This nonprofit organization offers real incentives to homeowners of very efficient as well as very wasteful houses. If you are purchasing or thinking of refinancing the mortgage on a home that is already energy-efficient, a Four Star rating will entitle you to better mortgage rates. If, on the other hand, ERH issues you a rating below Four Star, you can capitalize by financing tax-deductible improvements through your mortgage. The rating process also provides comprehensive information on cost-effective improvements and energy-cost projections. For details, and to see if your state has its own ERH inspection service, contact:
Energy Rated Homes of America
100 Main Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Reading relevant books and articles need not cost you anything if you have a good public library, and such information can lead to major energy savings. The more you are able to see your house as a complete energy system, the more choices you can make to save money.
Another excellent source of free advice is the technical staff at Real Goods Trading Corporation of Ukiah, California. Accessible via phone, mail, or electronic mail, these specialists can help you assess your energy conservation needs, select components, and design your own energy system.
Real Goods Trading Corporation, Technical Service Dept.
966 Mazzoni Street
Ukiah, CA 95482-3471
(800) 762-7325 or (707) 468-9292 outside the U.S.
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