While you might be waiting on the hot, lazy days of summer with breathless anticipation, one thing you might not be looking forward to is the higher energy bill that comes with the sweltering season. Entergy Arkansas, however, might have a solution for some of those summertime blues: a program that gives rebates and incentives to homeowners looking to make their homes more energy efficient. In some cases, subcontractors working in partnership with Entergy can inspect a home and do thousands in energy-saving repairs like weather stripping, caulking and ductwork repair at no cost to the homeowner. As a bonus, those repairs can save you thousands more on your energy bill in the long run.
The Home Energy Solutions program is the flagship of a slate of energy-efficiency programs offered by Entergy. Any Entergy customer living in a home or multi-family unit of four apartments or less that has central heat and air is eligible to have their home inspected and possibly repaired if problems are found. The program is offered in two tiers. Tier one includes a walk-through inspection of appliances, weather sealing and other potential drains on the power grid by a home energy consultant, with recommendations on what to do. A list of approved consultants is available on the Entergy website, and the company will pay for up to $75 toward the cost of this inspection.
Tier two is more thorough, and can send workers crawling into attics and crawlspaces to inspect ductwork and insulation, or a "blower door test" in which a large suction fan is attached to an exterior door to create negative pressure inside the house. The amount of air loss in the home can then be calculated by how much air flows into the blower.
Entergy offers a minimum of $300 and up to $500 in cash incentives toward the cost of the tier two inspection and testing, and then offers additional incentives to fix problems. If the homeowner selects a contractor who can both inspect the home and do the work, most repairs can be done with zero cash outlay by the homeowner.
According to an Entergy spokesperson, 10,725 customers have taken advantage of at least part of Home Energy Solutions program since 2010. A chart on the Entergy website says that the owner of a typical 1,900-square-foot home is eligible for up to $3,537.92 in energy-efficiency rebates and repairs from Entergy, and could save $550 a year on their electric bill and another $635 on their gas bill each year after those repairs are performed.
Richard Smith is the manager for Energy Efficiency at Entergy. He said the program seeks to help homeowners take a "whole house approach" to energy loss. Smith said the Home Energy Solutions program was started on a limited basis in 2007, but was redesigned in 2011 and has been available for all residential customers in the Entergy service area since early 2012. Smith said the program is not paid for by the federal government. "These are programs that are approved and reviewed and vetted through the Arkansas Public Service Commission," he said. "We cover the cost of these programs through our monthly electric bill."
Smith said homeowners should divide their year's highest electric bill by the square footage of the heated and cooled portion of their home. If the energy usage is more than .10 cents per square foot, then their home qualifies for a tier two assessment, and could probably benefit from inspection and repair. Homes with energy usage of more than .13 cents per square foot are considered "very inefficient."
Though the cost of repairs is substantial, Smith said Entergy saves money by helping customers become more energy efficient. "These programs are less costly than us building another power plant," he said. "That's what we're trying to avoid. If all of our customers can help us avoid that new power plant, and it's cheaper to do this, that seems like the smart thing to do."