Ready to Make A Difference:

How To Make Your Home Or Business More Energy Efficient

NZE Cover Image.jpg

In alignment with New York State’s recently declared goal of converting all existing buildings within New York to “Net-Zero Carbon” by 2050, the Town of Philipstown has prepared this introductory guide to explain what Net-Zero Carbon means and to help you gradually improve the energy efficiency of your building, which will allow you to eventually reach the goal of Net-Zero Carbon.

What is Net-Zero Carbon?

“Net-Zero Carbon” occurs when a building produces no net greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Basically, this happens by improving the energy efficiency of the building and by using only renewable energy sources to power the building’s systems. Any remaining emissions are offset by purchasing carbon offsets that support, for example, a reforestation or wind turbine project somewhere in the world. In this guide you will learn about a variety of energy efficiency measures and funding opportunities, which will allow you to reduce your building's greenhouse gas emissions and energy expenses and gradually help you convert your building to “Net-Zero Carbon.” As for new construction, we recommend building to either “Passive House” or “Living Building” standards as the most cost-effective and durable way to produce a “Net-Zero Carbon” building.

What are the benefits of Energy Efficiency?

  • It can save you money over time.

  • It can improve the comfort and air quality of your building

  • It improves the local economy by investing in local energy sources and jobs.

  • It is good for the environment, especially air and water quality.

  • It decreases reliance on foreign energy and improves national security.

What are the drawbacks of Energy Efficiency?

  • Some steps can require a substantial initial investment in order to achieve long-term savings.

  • When air exchange requirements are ignored, some insulation and/or airsealing work can cause mold and carbon monoxide issues , so please make sure you have a professional overseeing your insulation, airsealing and HVAC improvements.

How Can I Improve My Building’s Energy Efficiency

1. Change Occupant Behavior

  • Reduce winter thermostat setpoints and increase summer thermostat setpoints.

  • Turn off unused lights or install motion-sensor light switches.

  • To reduce phantom power losses, unplug appliances when not using them.

  • Use fans / open windows instead of using AC in summer, if appropriate.

  • Use less hot water for bathing, laundry and dishes whenever possible.

  • Hang laundry instead of using the clothes dryer and / or install a clothes dryer heat diverter in the exhaust line to recover outgoing heat and humidity during the winter.


 2. Conduct a Building Energy Assessment

  • Homeowners can apply to several NYSERDA Home Energy Assessment programs, to receive a free or low-cost home energy audit, depending on income.

  • Business-owners can apply to the Flexible Technical Assistance (FlexTech) Program for funding support.

  • Or you may hire an energy audit company directly.

3. Improve Your Building’s Energy Efficiency

  • Replace all lights with LEDs and old appliances with the most efficient models.

  • Air-seal the attic, rim joists & sill plates, basement, walls and HVAC ducts. Recommended air leakage rates are: 1) For the building envelope: less than 3 Air Changes per Hour (ACH) at 50 pascals of pressure, and 2) For ductwork: less than four percent of conditioned floor area (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

  • Weather-strip and/or update windows and doors, or install window inserts.

  • Install vapor barriers in appropriate areas, especially in crawl spaces, to avoid mold and mildew growth.

  • In order of priority, insulate either the attic ceiling (heated attic) or attic floor (unheated attic); basement rim joists; either the basement floor (heated basement) or basement ceiling (unheated basement); and, lastly, all walls. Recommended insulation amounts are: Attic +R49, Rim Joists +R20, Basement +R25, and Walls +R20 (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

  • Insulate HVAC ducts and all pipes in exterior walls / unheated spaces. Recommended Insulation amounts are: Ductwork +R12, Water pipes +R3.  (Sources: DOE and IECC - Climate Zone 5).

4. Convert to 100% Renewable Electricity

  • Install on-site solar photovoltaic (PV), micro-wind, or micro-hydro, as well as battery storage to maximize use of your on-site renewable energy output.

  • Purchase 100% renewable electricity via Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a Community Solar Program or from a third-party Energy Service Company (ESCO).

5.  Convert all Energy Usages to Electricity

  • Electrify space heating and cooling with Ground Source (Geothermal) Heat Pumps or Air Source Heat Pumps, and install Smart Thermostats.

  • Electrify Domestic Hot Water with an Electric Heat Pump Water Heater or a Tankless Electric Water Heater.

  • Install a Heat-Recovery Ventilator to save energy while exchanging stale air for fresh air in an airtight house - this will help avoid mold and carbon monoxide issues.

  • For power-outages, replace or complement backup gas or diesel generators with electric battery storage coupled to on-site renewables.

  • Replace a gas or inefficient electric clothes dryer with a heat pump dryer.

How Can I Finance These Improvements?

Although it is difficult to give general estimates of the cost and return on investment (ROI) of each of the above-listed energy efficiency improvements due to the variety of building conditions, building sizes, financing interest rates, and so forth, once you have information specific to your potential energy efficiency upgrade, we recommend using the Energy Star “Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator” to help you determine the cost and ROI of a project. After getting an Energy Assessment performed on your building, which will include a report with suggested improvements as well as their cost and ROI, you can use the above calculator to verify the estimated energy savings of improvements recommended by your energy assessor.

Furthermore, there are many federal and state funding opportunities available to help you reduce the costs of your energy efficiency improvements and further shorten their payback period. The underlined program titles below are direct links to each funding program’s website, where you can learn how to take advantage of the funding opportunities currently available. Some links repeat because the programs may be applicable to more than one energy efficiency improvement on this list.

Finally, although we have provided all of this information so that you can look it up directly, we understand most of home and business owners will want further assistance in the process of improving your building’s energy efficiency; therefore, we recommend setting up a free appointment with one of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Community Energy Advisors,” who will “help you reduce your energy consumption and energy costs and make informed energy decisions.” You can set up an appointment here: Community Energy Engagement Program.

1. Building Energy Assessment

a. NYSERDA Home Performance with Energy Star

  • Free or low-cost home energy audit.

b. NYSERDA EmPower NY Program

  • Free home energy audit for low-income homeowners

c. NYSERDA FlexTech Program

  • All commercial and industrial facilities in New York State that pay into the electric System Benefits Charge (SBC) on their electricity bills are eligible to receive assistance in paying for an energy audit.

2. Air-Sealing and Insulation

a. NYSERDA EmPower NY Program

  • Free energy efficiency upgrades for low-income homeowners

b. NYSERDA Assisted Home Performance With Energy Star

  • 50% energy-efficiency-upgrades subsidy for income-eligible homeowners

c.  “HomeAdvance” With Sealed

  • Program to gradually pay off energy efficiency upgrades via energy bills.

d.  Federal Non-Business Energy Property Tax Credit

  • Varying tax credits on building envelope improvements

e. Energize NY Commercial Program

  • Offers Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to commercial building owners to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.

3. HVAC, Domestic Hot Water (DHW) and Lighting

a. Federal Non-Business Energy Property Tax Credit

  • Varying tax credits on HVAC and DHW equipment upgrades.

b. Energy Star Rebates Via Central Hudson

  • Varying rebates for HVAC, DHW and Lighting equipment upgrades.

c. NYSERDA Air Source Heat Pump Rebate

  • $500 per installed ASHP system rebate for HVAC installers.

4. Solar Photovoltaic

a. NYSERDA NY-Sun Residential / Non-Residential Incentive Program

  • Subsidies for NYSERDA-approved solar installation contractors to lower solar installation costs.

b. NYSERDA Affordable Solar Program

  • Doubles the amount received by installers from NY-Sun for households earning less than 80 percent of the median income in the area.

c. NYSERDA On-Bill Recovery and Smart Energy Loans.

  • Loan amounts are available from $1,500 to $25,000 with loan terms of 5, 10, or 15 years to help New York residents finance solar installation.

d. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on solar energy systems through 2021.

e. Community Solar via NY-Sun

  • Purchase solar panels at or subscribe to a community solar project to access solar energy without installing PV panels on your property.

5. Small Wind Turbines

a. NYSERDA Small Wind Turbine Program

  • Subsidy that can pay up to 50% of the cost of a small wind turbine system

b. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on small wind energy systems through 2021.

6. Geothermal Heat Pumps

a. Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit

  • 30% tax credit on geothermal heat pump systems through 2021.

b. NYSERDA Ground Source Heat Pump Rebate

  • Rebate for designers and installers to lower the cost of geothermal by up to $1,500 per “ton” of cooling capacity ($15,000 max. for single family homes). 

Where Can I Purchase Carbon Offsets?

We recommend purchasing carbon offsets from programs that are certified by the following standards: Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve and American Climate Registry. Greenhouse gas reduction projects with these certifications result in real, verified, enforceable, and permanent reductions. If you would like more information on each of these standards, the following article gives a good summary:

As for where to purchase your carbon offsets, please click on any of the following programs to open a link to their websites, where you can purchase carbon offsets verified by the above standards:

Gold Standard TerraPass CarbonFund BEF

Thank you for taking the time to learn about these resources!

- Created January 2019 -