Grant promotes energy audits, conservation

April 21 meeting to inform landlords about program

  • Brian Abramson of Abramson’s Renovations LLC shines some light on the knob-and-tube-wiring in a house he is renovating in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Brian Abramson of Abramson’s Renovations LLC holds a tube from knob-and-tube wiring in a house he is renovating in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Knob-and-tube wiring such as this must be replaced in order to install blown-in insulation, one of many energy-saving home improvements. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/12/2016 9:19:29 PM

Volunteers are knocking on doors of houses that could benefit from energy-savings.

Focused on Greenfield, Montague, Shelburne and Buckland, they’re part of a state grant-funded project that’s also trying to enlist landlords — who may not realize they’re eligible for free energy audits for their rental buildings or may not see the value of cutting energy uses — to find out about having the assessments done on their properties.

The effort, funded through the Franklin Regional Council of Governments with a $26,000 Massachusetts Clean Energy Center grant, is being coordinated by Co-op Power, the consumer energy cooperative, to boost the number of people applying for the free checks of their buildings, with the potential for discounts on insulation, and energy-efficient appliances.

“In my mind, it’s a no-brainer,” said Millers Falls landlord Jim Martineau of getting an energy audit from Mass Save. “It’s the first call I make when I buy a property.”

Martineau is vice president of the Landlord Business Association of Franklin County, which will have a meeting April 21 at 5 p.m. at Terrazza Restaurant in Greenfield to discuss why it may be in their interests to get an energy assessment done.

“It’s been a hard sell for some people,” he said. But Martineau’s had audits done in the three two-family houses he owns in Greenfield and Turners Falls, and has followed up by making recommended energy improvements, with 75 percent of the costs covered for air sealing, weatherization and insulation, and discounts on energy-efficient refrigerators, furnace and “mini-split” heat exchangers.

Mark Abramson, a founding member of the landlords association, said that since roughly 10 to 15 percent of apartment owners pay for utilities, many ask themselves, “Why should we spend any money making it more reasonable for (tenants) to pay lower utility costs?”

But Abramson, who is making energy-saving improvements on a three-apartment building he recently bought in Greenfield after first having Co-op Power do an energy assessment, argues, “It’s good for the environment, and you can ask for higher rents if the utility costs are less. People are going to be more comfortable and the overall cost of occupancy is likely to be lower,” so turnover will probably be reduced, with lower vacancy rates.

Also, said Abramson — who’s taking advantage of a state subsidy on removing ancient knob-and-tube wiring that’s necessary for blowing in cellulose insulation — doing the work increases a property’s value in the long run.

While most energy audits are done by Mass Save and are paid through a surcharge on utility bills, they can also be done free of charge by a variety of participating contractors, including Co-op Power, and low-income households may qualify for audits as part of weatherization services and heating assistance from Community Action, said Erik Hoffner, who is helping to coordinate the COG’s four-month-long grant program for Mass Save.

“The grant is to grab people to get an assessment done,” Hoffner said.

According to U.S. Census data, 45 percent of housing in Montague, 43 percent in Greenfield and 34 percent in Shelburne is renter-occupied, while 16 percent of housing Buckland is occupied by renters. Multifamily housing accounts for 42 percent of the housing units in Montague, with about 39 percent in Greenfield and 29 percent in Shelburne. In Buckland, it accounts for 21 percent of housing units.

Hoffner said much of the effort of the grant is remind people that they can a new energy audit done every two years to take advantage of updated program benefits, including newly eligible energy-saving techniques. As part of that, the attempt here is to involve more rental property owners, who may not realize that a free audit and reduced-cost energy improvements can enhance their investment and discourage use of space-heaters, which pose a safety hazard.

“They don’t want ice dams to build up, with water in the walls, and they can preclude that by having good insulation,” he said. “That’s a really big deal.

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You can reach Richie Davis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 269


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