Sustainability Life Recipe Series, Cornell University
Save Green at Home

Save green, go green.  Cornell publishes the Sustainability Life Recipe Series for quick tips on practical ways to save money and adopt more sustainable practices in our home and community. Check out these quick tips for how to starting $aving today.

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Start Saving Resources Today

What practical actions can we do to save money, protect our living environment, and promote good jobs for people in our community? Cornell did the research alongside our partner Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and identified 13 steps you can take today to make your home more sustainable.

High Energy Bills?

Did you know the average home contains leaks that, taken together, are the size of a basketball? That’s equivalent to leaving a window open in winter. By sealing these cracks and adding insulation, you can cut down on energy used to heat and cool your home. This means a cozier home, and cheaper energy bills.

Make Your Home Energy Efficient

  1. Get an energy assessment. These are no-cost to households with incomes under $157,000. Having an energy assessment qualifies you for incentives, rebates and low-interest loans to apply to your energy use improvements. Use one of the following local contractors — all committed to good practice standards — and support well-paying jobs in our community.
  1. Assessments take 2-4 hours. You should accompany the auditor to learn the most about your home’s energy needs. 
  2. Based on the assessment, contractors will provide you with a report with recommended actions to improve the comfort and safety of your home, as well as reduce your energy bills. This report will provide payback estimates for each improvement. The contractors will help you determine if you qualify for any available discount or rebate programs, such as:
    • EmPower New York - If your family makes less than 60% of the State's median income ($53,484 for a family of 4 in 2018) you may qualify for this program. For eligible families, EmPower New York covers 100% of qualifying energy improvements like insulation, air sealing, and more.

    • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) uses the same eligibility criteria as EmPower New York (above) and provides additional energy improvements at no cost. WAP is administered locally by Tompkins Community Action (see here for other counties).

Download a combined application for EmPower and WAP (pdf).

All of these incentives are available for homeowners and renters, though you will have to work with your landlord if you rent. There are also low-interest loans (3.5-4%) and other discounts available. Learn more about these and about all the different home energy efficiency programs on NYSERDA's site.

2. Complete no-cost or low-cost DIY energy savings projects.

3. Find local financing options for low energy improvements. Don't let a big sticker price stop you from switching to low energy options. Often, energy savings projects and renewables can cover your monthly loan payments and generate savings from day one! Click here for a list of local banks along with rates, loans and contact information.

Determine Your Savings

Here is one assessment tool from Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI) you can use to get a sense of potential savings.

  1. What improvements are covered by incentives?

In general, all the programs cover air sealing, insulation and upgrades to lighting and certain heating and cooling appliances. Click here (pdf) for a list of eligible improvements for the Home Performance program.

  1. Are windows covered?

No. Incentive programs generally do not cover windows, doors and roofs. However, these may be covered in extreme cases under the Weatherization Assistance program.

  1. I'm a renter. Can I still qualify?

Yes! All the incentive programs work for renters. It is best if your landlord supports you, otherwise only minimal work can be done (like changing lightbulbs and installing faucet aerators).

Do you have other questions? Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, (607) 272-2292.