December 8, 2021

State grants to boost greener heating

Town of Dryden Logo

DRYDEN — The town of Dryden could get a $5,000 state grant — and residents could save thousands of dollars a year in heating costs — if 10 households sign contracts enrolling in the HeatSmart Tompkins programs, residents learned Thursday night.

Three of those households would also need to apply for heat pumps.

The program, sponsored by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, aims to transition Tompkins County households into energy-efficient homes with heat pumps, which can reduce heating and cooling costs, said HeatSmart Tompkins co-program director Lisa Marshall.

Heat pumps replace a furnace, but are 200% to 400% more effective than regular heating methods, Marshall said.

“Heat pumps are going to cut your heating costs from all fossil fuels dramatically from propane or electric,” Marshall said during a town meeting Thursday night. “It’s more expensive to install than a traditional fossil fuel boiler, but the incentive is to offer to offset the costs until we can bring the costs down.”

The incentives will help low- to moderate-income households pay for heat pumps, insulation and air-sealing water heaters, Marshall said. And people in Dryden could qualify for grants of $1,000 to $10,000 through HeatSmart Tompkins or the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.

Heat pumps use electricity to modify chemical properties within the system to either absorb or give off heat, Marshall said. One unit of electricity is equivalent to two to five units of heat.

In some households, Marshall has seen annual heating bills reduced to $300 from $4,000, she said. But the cost to buy and install a heat pump can range from $4,000 to $8,000, depending on the size of the home.

“There’s a fair amount of fear and concern about any initiatives in this area about energy efficiency and climate change mitigation,” said planning board member Joe Wilson. “Frankly, on the Climate Smart Community Task Force, we are explicitly looking for ways to answer than challenge and this is potentially the most effective way.”

Low- to moderate-income families could have the opportunity for cooling and heating that some of them have never had, Marshall said. Heat pumps would eliminate the need for window air-conditioning units, the labor of cutting wood or the costs of gas and electric heating.

The campaign has seen more than 30 enrollments in Dryden in the past few weeks, Marshall said. If any of those go into contract during the state process of offering $5,000 to the first 100 towns to have 10 signed contracts, Dryden would receive credit.

“I’ve seen a good conversion rate from those enrollments to contract,” Marshall said. “We are planting the seeds of embracing and accepting energy efficiency and education and moving towards green homes — it’s a great opportunity.”

NYSERDA is offering a 50% rebate to the town for any advertising costs acquired during the campaign, Marshall said.

“We’ve been promoting this for a few years now especially with encouraging heat pumps in new developments and there’s been very little pushback,” said town Deputy Supervisor Dan Lamb.