Holly O’Grady is the “energy navigator” in Beacon for a Cornell Cooperative Extension program that helps people make their homes more efficient.
Why did you volunteer as an energy navigator?
I recently moved from an overheated, small apartment in New York City to a house in Beacon. I realized it was a very different ballgame: There are lots of choices a homeowner has to make. The program was helpful to me personally thinking about how to make my house greener, little by little.
What was the training like?
It was a 10-week program. We started by looking at our utility bill. When I lived in an apartment, I felt I had little control over my choices. But the utility bill becomes a very interesting document when you own a house. You say, “Wait a minute, where did I spend all that money?” We also went through the choices people can make about electric usage, heating options. It moves from the most basic document to a broader discussion, especially if you’re replacing things. If the hot water heater goes, well, what’s a better way to heat water?
What are some changes you’ve made?
I had heard about signing up to get your electricity from community solar farms but always thought, “I’ll get to that later.” After I was in the program, I realized “Why not?” It’s a change that costs nothing. Another thing we’re starting to look at is more insulation in drafty areas. That doesn’t require a huge investment.
Is there low-hanging fruit that people can tackle on their own?
Door sweeps, believe it or not. We put one in because our house is my guinea pig, and even though the door fits snugly, I could tell the difference right away. There is rope caulk you can put around window frames, especially if you don’t want to cover your windows with plastic. We changed our light bulbs with ones that are much more energy efficient and we could see the effect on our bill right away.
One training topic was “energy justice.” What is that?
There’s quite a movement in New York to ensure that all residents have opportunities to upgrade their efficiency, not just people who can afford it. It’s one of the things I’m advocating, along with the Green Beacon Coalition. We list programs at midhudsonenergychoices.org. Heating is such a big expense that it’s important for people who live in homes that haven’t been upgraded, or with things that haven’t been addressed over a number of years, to know there are grants to improve their heating efficiency so that they don’t have to live in drafty, cold houses. We can walk people through what they need to do to qualify.
O’Grady can be reached at [email protected]