An employee of the New England Smart Energy Group conducts a blower door test to determine a home’s air tightness as part of a recent Home Energy Solutions program visit designed to help homeowners identify areas of their home that could be made for energy-efficient.

They arrive promptly every month in your mailbox. However, many people will quickly tuck them away, conveniently forget where they are, or do whatever is possible to put off opening those inevitable utility bills. Well, fear no more. Homeowners in Connecticut are extremely lucky because of the many opportunities available for conserving energy and the environment. Even without a backyard compost pile or water-saving rain barrel, Connecticut residents can save big time by signing up for an energy efficient assessment.

Some Fairfield County residents recently took part in an Energy Challenge Rewards program, which involved community groups getting energy saving audits, making improvements to their homes and earning benefits for their towns. This was done by the Home Energy Solutions (HES) program, supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund  (CEEF) to reduce home energy bills. A CL&P authorized contractor came to the home, made an assessment as well as on-the-spot improvements. These included everything from caulking air leaks to installing energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, a blower-door test, and hot water-saving measures. The good news is that just about anyone in Fairfield County can take advantage of these energy saving audits. For $75, you get more than your money’s worth from the contractors who do the audit.

Pippa Bell Ader of Westport was chairperson of the Westport group and not only had an audit on her home, but testifies to the benefits. “I was interested in the environment and saving energy,” she said pointing out that was how she got interested in the program to begin with. She then described the work the two technicians did while assessing her home.

Ader was impressed that they were as considerate as they were skilled. “They put on booties when they entered the house and then they got to work measuring air leaks. They used a steam wand to determine where the loss was coming from and where ever they found a problem area, they tried to stop it by caulking or weather stripping. They walked through the entire house and spent a good part of the day doing so. They dealt with the problems they found on the spot. They also put some additional plastic foam-type  insulation where it was needed around pipes or openings, adjusted water-flow except for the shower faucet where the family wanted to keep the pressure high, and changed my light bulbs from incandescent to energy saving fluorescent. This was all for $75.”

It made a noticeable difference in Ader’s electric bill and her heating costs have been reduced significantly. “This is such a great opportunity,” she said. “Most average homes in Connecticut will see an average annual savings of between $200 and $350.”

Lynn Winslow, vice president of Ledgebrook Condominiums in Norwalk and chairperson of the CEEF condo project said, “Oh my goodness, are we saving money.” While all of the condo units engaged in the energy saving process to some degree, a little more than 40 units of the 222 units opted to go even further and replaced their inefficient electric furnaces to heat pumps. Overall, Winslow said, this resulted in huge savings of 50% on their monthly electric bills. Ledgebrook was the first Connecticut condo association to initiate such an endeavor.

The Energy Efficiency Programs are funded through a charge on your electric bill. All CL&P and United Illuminating (UI) customers and Southern Connecticut Gas Company and Yankee Gas Services Company contribute through a conservation charge on gas bills. So why not take advantage of this? While the programs of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund help to make homes more energy efficient, not every house can take advantage of the Home Energy Solutions program. There are some exceptions including homes with asbestos and other eligibility disqualifiers. For more information about this contact 1-877-947-3873.

There are also plenty of other energy saving companies. Lynn Hippeau who owns a house in Darien contacted Dr. Energy Saver, a division of Connecticut Basement System, which is located in Seymour and is not associated with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. Hippeau had a series of problems that needed to be taken care of in order to make her home more energy efficient.

“I contacted Connecticut Basement Systems first about water in my basement, which the company took care of and then informed me of its energy saving division, Dr. Energy Saver,” she said. “I had only one thermostat for my entire house, so the temperature was never evenly regulated. I also had an ancient oil tank and needed some new duct work. Honestly, I used to sit and cry when I got my utility bills, but I have seen my electric bill cut down drastically. The house is amazing now. With an upstairs and downstairs thermostat, each room has a steady temperature,” said Hippeau, who applauded the company for essentially re-engineering her house.

This homeowner went so far as taking care of all of the suggestions the company recommended. It cost her substantial amount, but she did a substantial amount of work including converting from oil to propane gas. It took a while to accomplish all this, but Hippeau said it was worth it not only for energy savings she sees when she opens that envelope with the energy logo on it, but for the peace of mind.

The bottom line is that with winter quickly approaching, whether you go with the Connecticut Energy Efficiency program or choose an independent contractor, it pays to conserve on energy. The biggest benefit is that you also contribute to saving the environment.