Energy costs are a hot topic in Massachusetts. From seemingly endless humid summers, to winters with polar vortices dropping temperatures below zero and days with icy winds blowing from the north, the people of Massachusetts and their homes have to endure such stunning ranges of weather conditions that the great humorist Mark Twain, who had a house in Hartford, Connecticut, once said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”
In addition to the weather giving homes a beating, time does a number on them, too. Houses settle, wood warps and rots, water digs channels, and ice cracks everything. Brick and mortar erode, roots grow into foundations, wind rips off siding or shingles, and homeowners neglect to put in their storm windows or clean out their gutters.
This means that older homes and apartment buildings are often compromised when it comes to energy use, not only driving up heating and cooling costs for their owners, but increasing greenhouse gas emissions, the urban heat island effect, and other things that, ironically, make the weather more extreme and unpredictable. Underheating your home can lead to health problems, including arthritis, rheumatism, heart disease and even respiratory issues.
Energy inefficiency is a major problem with older housing in Massachusetts. A National Association of Home Builders’ report shows that half of the owner-occupied homes in Massachusetts were built before 1962 — the second highest median age for housing stock in the country after New York. People with lower incomes are also more likely to live in older housing.
Because of all these factors, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources oversees programs of incentives, investments, and rebates for energy efficiency and sustainability. It also helps sponsor the Mass Save® collaborative of the Commonwealth’s utilities that promotes home energy savings.
Mass Save is a homeowner-focused program offering no-cost home energy assessments as one of its main features. Before the pandemic, a consultant would examine a home and make recommendations for improvements. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the assessments are now done virtually.
Incentives and rebates depend on your utility providers, but they can include rebates on programmable thermostats, central air conditioning and heat pumps, water heaters, insulation and clothes dryers, dehumidifiers and room air conditioners. There are also some price discounts available for things like LED lightbulbs and shower fixtures, while a $150 rebate for a clothes washer is available to those who qualify through their home energy assessments. Even more discounts and rebates are available through programs designed to help low-income households, with eligibility extending up families of four on an income of $100,268 a year.
Mass Save also offers a program for people renovating their homes or building additions, although the projects need to meet certain requirements to be eligible, including at least 500 square feet of floor area and 500 square feet of thermal envelope. Other assistance is available for new single and multifamily homes.
Lastly, Mass Save offers interest-free loans of up to $25,000 for installing energy efficiency upgrades. Projects have to be eligible and the loan has to be approved by a lender. Hanscom Federal Credit Union is a participating lender.
In addition to making your home more energy efficient, Massachusetts has programs to assist homeowners in taking advantage of all the energy-saving opportunities available to them, including rebates, incentives, and other types of financing for electric vehicles, appliances, and more. Learn about those programs here.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Boston-area residents have higher electricity and natural gas costs than average in the United States – by at least 45% for electricity and 30% for gas. When your older home isn’t as energy efficient as it can be, that’s a lot of money going up the chimney.
If you are considering financing energy savings projects, such a replacing your heating system or hot water heater, you may be eligible for a no-interest loan from Hanscom FCU through the Mass Save HEAT Loan Program. Learn more about this cost-saving program here.
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