Sustainable Living: Lower Your Bills!

By Shawn Dell Joyce

We may not be able to do much about taxes or the economy, but one thing we can do is lower our cost of living thanks to a program started and run by Montgomery resident Alice Dickinson.

Orange County Rural Development Advisory Corporation, RDAC, is a non-profit housing counseling and development agency that helps people keep their homes by avoiding foreclosure, as well as lower their cost of living through weatherization and energy efficiency.
In January, RDAC received state funding to provide free energy efficiency retrofits for homeowners and tenants in eastern Orange County.  This area includes the towns of Newburgh, Montgomery, Crawford, New Windsor, Hamptonburgh, Cornwall, Blooming Grove, Highlands, Tuxedo, Woodbury and Warwick and all the villages within these towns. RDAC can assist homeowners, landlords or tenants to reduce utility costs, conserve energy, increase home comfort, and improve health and safety. The funds are free to qualifying household in the moderate income range.

What this all means is that a family of four would qualify for free service if their income is $46,836 or less.  That same family may spend over $9,000 on heat and utilities yearly. RDAC’s trained professionals will come to their home and seal all the cracks and holes in the house, insulate attics and walls, repair or replace heating systems, and provide efficient lighting and refrigeration.

Dickinson notes, “Households who earn less income tend to spend a disproportionate amount of income—upwards of 20% of their annual income—on energy, compared with approximately 5% for higher income households. If we can reduce a home’s energy consumption with energy efficiency, it  puts in place measures that continue to save money every year.”

RDAC has been at the forefront in bringing green jobs to our area, and has worked with the state to implement Green Jobs-Green NY legislation. RDAC is also working to bring the new PACE program to our area which would reduce the cost of renewable energy to homeowners by tying it to the property taxes.

RDAC is proving that retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency will stimulate public and private investment in green small businesses, as well as manufacturing of more energy-efficient materials including insulation, caulking, doors and windows, heating and cooling systems, and home appliances.

“It just makes sense, said Dickinson.  Even someone who is not particularly committed to reducing carbon would like to save money and air sealing and insulating your home can save up to 40 percent on your utility costs.  Who wouldn’t like that?”

If you would like to take advantage of this new program, there is an application to determine program eligibility, then an energy audit of the home is conducted to identify needs. Both homeowners and renters are eligible, subject to federal low-income guidelines.  If a household contains a member who receives Supplemental Security Income, Public Assistance, Food Stamps, or Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) benefits, the household is considered automatically eligible for weatherization services.  All services are provided without cost to the occupant of the home.  However, owners of rental buildings must invest funds toward the cost of weatherization services performed on their property.

Please find more details on RDAC’s energy services, as well as WAP application available for download, at or call (845)524-HOME (4663)

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist and director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, NY.


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