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Nonprofit helps homeowners stay (and save) green

BY JESS WISLOSKI

Tuesday, April 29th 2008, 4:00 AM

Many a homeowner eager to hop on the "green" bandwagon may have reconsidered after seeing the price tag on Earth-friendly renovations. But some savvy owners in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx have found ways to save mountains of money by implementing methods to cut down their energy usage - and having the government pay for it.

In the era of near $4-a-gallon gas prices, organizations that specialize in tapping federal funds for energy efficiency upgrades are being inundated with calls. "I don't know if it is marketing or the price of oil or what it may be, but there has been an upswing on the amount of calls we've gotten," says Greg Elcock, an energy auditor at the Community Environmental Center in Long Island City. "We almost can't handle it."

The 14-year-old nonprofit group got its start by focusing on weatherizing buildings, but has since become a conduit for a number of funding sources for those seeking to save energy.

"We capitalize on all the funding the city makes available and pass it on to our clients," Elcock said.

The center even has its own in-house construction crews. After the group performs an audit on a home, the same team draws up a detailed plan as to how to save energy. If the building owner doesn't have a lot of cash to spend on renovations, the consultant may suggest only a few essential improvements. Other clients take out low-interest loans and do a full efficiency upgrade, in hopes of seeing the best savings, Elcock said.

A Coney Island management company spent $1 million on a recent upgrade of a 172-unit rental property. It included adding low-flow water fixtures, pipe insulation, lighting upgrades and replacing old windows and appliances.

"They definitely achieved savings," Elcock said.

In the Bronx, homeowner and mom Amy Kenette said the $32,000 cost of upgrading her Woodlawn house was well worth the cash savings and the reduced impact on the Earth. "We have been surprised how little the heat goes on and how long the house stays warm," she said. "We're kind of pioneers in our immediate circle." But for Carole Gutowski, a grandmother in South Ozone Park who called Elcock's group looking for a senior-citizen program, the renovation was a happy accident. "My bills were getting bigger and bigger," she said, until the center gave her a renovation fully subsidized by government grants. "It was just like Christmas for us."


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