Champaign ups energy incentives

CHAMPAIGN — The city will begin tacking on to Ameren Illinois programs designed to help people make their homes more energy efficient.

Homeowners and some renters may be eligible for potentially hundreds of dollars in incentives if they are looking to make energy improvements to their homes. That has always been true through the Ameren Act On Energy program, but now the city will begin pitching in its own incentives to make the upgrades more affordable.

Officials have set aside $100,000 for the two-pronged effort toward make Champaign as a whole more environmentally friendly. In the first part, the city will cover the cost of an initial home energy audit provided by Ameren to identify areas where someone can make their building more efficient.

Ameren Act On Energy is already providing those audits, but until now has charged $50 for the one- to two-hour examination of someone's home. The city will begin covering that fee — making the audit free for residents — and has budgeted $39,000 to pay for up to 780 audits.

"We think these audits are really important, and so does Ameren," said city planner Lacey Rains Lowe. "There's a phrase that the sustainability coordinator in Urbana is always saying. He's always saying, 'You can't manage what you don't measure.'"

The Ameren Act On Energy audits target what improvements are really needed to make a home more energy efficient. Auditors will replace all light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, install new faucet aerators and use thermal imaging to look at where hot or cold air is escaping.

Then the auditor will provide the resident with a list of more substantial work a homeowner might consider to really start to make a dent: Things like improving attic and wall insulation or sealing ducts.

Although residents are not required to make any of those home improvements and can do as little or as much as they would like, the work can cost thousands of dollars. That's where part two of the program comes in.

Some projects are eligible for a level of reimbursement from Ameren — on average, it's about 45 percent of the total project cost, Lowe said. Then the city will pay another 20 percent of the Ameren incentive — altogether, residents could have around 54 percent of an energy efficiency project paid for.

"It's a pretty good deal," Lowe said. "Essentially, over half the cost of the project is covered by the incentive program."

Officials are expecting that the city portion of the incentive will run, on average, about $308 per project.

Attendees of today's STAR Awards Banquet and Expo will have the first chance to sign up. Others can begin signing up next week by calling Ameren at 866-838-6918.

Going green

Champaign homeowners' first chance to sign up for one of 780 free energy audits comes today:

What: STAR Awards Banquet and Expo

When: Event begins at 5:30 p.m.

Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S. Neil St.

Admission: Free

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