'Curious' About Help For Heating Homes This WinterAP

This could be a very tough winter for people when it comes to heating their homes. Many homeowners are scared about just how high energy prices could go.

David from Atkinson, New Hampshire asked on our Curiosity page,”What resources are there for families struggling with high oil prices?”

There is a new program that is using some Yankee ingenuity to help both Massachusetts homeowners and the environment at the same time.

The timing is good.

Joe Kennedy with Citizens Energy says that we’ve never seen anything like what is about to hit us when it comes to paying to heat our homes.

“Families earning $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, they’ve never had to budget for anything close to $5,000 or $6,000 a year just to stay warm,” Kennedy said.

Deb Libuda of Auburn says it has been a challenge. She is a single mother who works full-time at a bank and also has two part-time jobs.

Last winter she couldn’t keep up with her energy bills. At one point, her electricity was going to be shut off.

“I cut back on other things, our food bills,” she said. “Some months I might not pay a credit card in full.”

Like 45,000 other households in Massachusetts, Deb is eligible for fuel assistance, but she was scared that wouldn’t be enough help this coming winter. Then she was accepted into a new program that is, quite simply, changing her life.

“There will be more food. More money for food and other things.”

Deb received a new state of the furnace. It’s called a MCHP, which stands for micro combined heat and power system. It’s an electric generator fired by natural gas. It makes about 1.2 kilowatts per hour when it’s running, and throws off about 11,000 BTUs of heat. It’s a super efficient system that reduces more than just greenhouse gas emissions.

Bruce Ledgerwood is the project coordinator for LEAN, or the “low income energy affordability network“, which helped Deb get her new furnace and overall winterization.

“We expect their $2,700 electric and space heat bill to be reduced to almost half of what was used last winter.”

The goal of this program is to find long term energy solutions, instead of just short term fixes. Eligible families can also get a solar hot water heating system for example.

Ledgerwood explains, “It is much more comprehensive, but it doesn’t make sense to just give people fuel for a year if you can do more.”

Deb is very thankful for the help she is getting, and hopes it lets her stay in her house a little longer. So far about 30 homes have received new heating systems like hers, and it is expected that another 15 will be installed before the end of the year. The program is funded by the utility companies, government grants, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

To find out more, you can contact Bruce Ledgerwood directly at bruceledgerwood@comcast.net. Or call 617-780-6759.

© MMX, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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