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Nature Watch: Help the Environment and Fuel Bills

Have you checked heating oil prices lately? Unless you like to burn money, you owe it to yourself to start looking for ways to reduce this winter’s heating costs. My wife and I took the leap six years ago, when we put an addition on our home. New York tax credits helped us pay for new windows and a fuel-efficient furnace. Since then, we’ve been saving 10 percent to 20 percent a year on fuel bills, even though we’re heating a larger space.

To jump-start your savings, look around for cheaper heating oil. Westchester County Government lists current prices for 51 companies here . Connecticut residents can use these prices as benchmarks, too. Latest average: $3.70 a gallon.

For the future, search for ways to reduce consumption and plot larger projects as time and budget allow. The federal government provides an excellent guide to performing your own home energy audit here . You’ll also find useful information on the various types of products that will save you money.

If you’re thinking of solar – for heat or electricity – it’s not too early to start your research. Solar systems are becoming more cost-efficient and aesthetically pleasing every day. Go to Solar Connecticut , to gather information and see what residential installations look like.

I don’t encourage woodstoves because they add carbon and other pollutants to the air. If you have an older stove, it’s probably inefficient, too. For further information, go to the Environmental Protection Agency .

One option a lot of people ask me about is geothermal. The Audubon Greenwich Center has been using geothermal for the past 10 years, and we have not spent a penny on oil in that whole time. The system keeps us warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and operates entirely on electricity.

Finding information on geothermal is sometimes harder than actually installing it. Luckily there are nonprofits dedicated to the industry, such as Geoexchange and the Geothermal Resources Council , that give you a place to start.

To learn about state rebates, loan programs and tax exemptions for geothermal, go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency and click on your state. A New York source for information on all energy-saving incentives is Nyserda’s website . In Connecticut, see Connecticut Light & Power .

As always, if you have more questions email me, or better yet, come on down to the Audubon Greenwich Center and see the future right now.

John Hannan is director of development for Audubon in Connecticut . For more information, contact him at jhannan@audubon.org.

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