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Northampton’s door-to-door effort yields progress on home energy conservation

  • Marty Nathan, a member of the steering committee of Climate Action Now, speaks about natural gas leaks during a meeting at her home in April 2016 in Northampton. Climate Action Now has launched Button Up Northampton 2.0, an energy conservation initiative, with Mothers Out Front and ener-G-save. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



@BeraDunau
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Button Up Northampton 2.0 may only have scratched the surface of its efforts to promote energy-efficient dwellings, but the results are already encouraging to its organizers.

Button Up Northampton 2.0 is the creation of three nonprofits: Mothers Out Front, Climate Action Now, and ener-G-save. It takes the inspiration for its name from the original Button Up Northampton program, an energy conservation initiative that won acclaim and recognition in the 1980s, and was one of the prominent accomplishments of former mayor David Musante Jr.

The program involves volunteers coordinated by Mothers Out Front and Climate Action Now going door to door in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the city and informing people about energy-efficiency resources.

Marty Nathan, who serves on the steering committee of Climate Action Now, said only 60 homes have been visited so far, as the way is paved for the larger push. However, she said that the homes visited have had a “very large percentage” of people either looking to get an energy audit or to pursue the recommendations of a past energy audit.

“We were very surprised,” said Nathan.

Ener-G-save then helps people either get a free energy audit, or implement the recommendations of an audit.

“It’s a perfect, really nice match,” said ener-G-save Project Manager Uli Nagel, on the door-to-door nature of the program.

Nagel also spoke about how homeowners can get 75 to 100 percent of the cost of insulating a single-family home paid for, and that up to 90 percent of this cost can be paid for in multifamily buildings of two to four families.

The funding comes from a charge on electricity bills in the state. “People don’t realize that they pay into a fund for energy efficiency every month,” Nagel said.

She also said that ener-G-save can help homeowners to get heat pumps and solar panels.

“We can consult on any of these options,” she said.

Nagel said that ener-G-save contracts with the company Co-op Power to create a database of everybody who calls to utilize its services, and to help connect callers with contractors.

“They’re basically our customer service arm,” she said.

As for those who have already had an energy assessment, Nagel had a bit of information.

“You can have an audit more than once,” she said.

Nathan said that Button Up Northampton 2.0 has about 40 volunteers, but is looking for more.

“We’re always seeking more volunteers,” she said.

For her part, Nagel praised the efforts of the canvassers.

“It’s really fantastic,” she said. “It’ll help the town, it’ll help people’s wallets and it’ll help the planet.”

Nathan also said that a desire to stop the expansion of additional natural gas pipelines into the state by reducing demand was an element that had spurred the creation of the program.

The program has been endorsed by the city, with Mayor David Narkewicz sending out a letter of support in May.

“Our city is dedicated to combating climate change and reducing our residents’ heating costs and the Button Up Northampton 2.0 program provides a means to accomplish both,” Narkewicz wrote.

Although Chris Mason, the city’s energy and sustainability officer, is liaisoning with the campaign, the mayor saidthat the campaign is fundamentally all about “people power.”

Narkewicz also acknowledged the continuity of the program’s name with the past effort, although he said he wasn’t involved in its selection.

“This work is still needed,” Narkewicz said.

Information on energy efficiency programs can also be found at www.masssave.com.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.