By Dawn Krebs
STUART -- A partnership formed in February between the city of Stuart and the nonprofit organization Solar and Energy Loan Fund began the process of enabling the residents to receive guidance, and in some cases financial assistance, with making their homes more energy efficient.
On June 20, the nonprofit announced that the city of Stuart is providing funding for 50 energy audits for its residents.
"The city will provide financial assistance to the first 50 people for an energy evaluation of their homes," said Doug Coward, executive director of SELF. "The city will pay the first $250 for the energy evaluation, estimated to be approximately $275. Our organization will pay the remainder, so the cost to the homeowner is zero."
The evaluation will help city residents take a closer look at their current energy usage using a state-certified energy consultant, and suggesting ways the homeowner can save money by using more energy-efficient means, such as solar water heaters, weatherization or high-efficiency air conditioners.
The audit will be performed by David Reidy of Suncool Energy, a Martin County-based business.
"(Mr. Reidy) doesn't get a commission," Mr. Coward said. "He is doing an independent assessment of the home to find the most cost-effective ways to cut the energy consumption and lower energy bills."
The nonprofit, known as SELF, has been active in St. Lucie County, and opened a satellite office in Stuart on Feb. 1. The funds for the office were provided by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.
The nonprofit can also offer low-interest rate loans for homeowners wanting to make changes.
"This is really a partnership between SELF and the city of Stuart," Mr. Coward said. "We've been working with the city in advance of this when they mentioned to us early on in developing an energy auditing program."
The audit program proved successful in St. Lucie County, when a similar program resulted in more than 600 audits in 90 days.
"We are already getting calls here in Stuart, and have plenty of additional opportunity to educate the residents," Mr. Coward said.
In addition, SELF also provides financing so the homeowner can benefit from the many rebates and tax credits that are applicable to many of these products.
"We've already done a detailed review of the products we offer, and also provide project management to oversee the homeowner's projects and deal directly with the contractors," he said.
Mr. Coward praises the forward thinking of the city of Stuart for undertaking this project.
"The city deserves a lot of credit for this service," he said. "It is one of the few cities that has a green building ordinance in place, which will further reduce the costs of this program to the homeowner."
Stuart Mayor Eula Clarke said, "The city is pleased to be working with the nonprofit Solar and Energy Loan Fund to help local residents identify and make wise energy improvement, and to help create local jobs."
Future plans in the area include possible town hall meetings to further educate residents on the many products and options available to them.
For information on home energy evaluations, call SELF's Stuart office at (772) 221-4060 or visit www.cleanenergyloanprogram.org.