Published in the Fredericksburg Freelance Star

Get HELP with your energy bills

Date published: 11/22/2011

WITH ALL the scam artists around, "Caveat emptor"–"Let the buyer beware"–might be a useful tattoo on the back of your hand. When something seems too good to be true, it usually is. But not always. Middle-class homeowners in Greater Fredericksburg are eligible for thousands of dollars in energy-saving improvements to their digs, as some $645,00 in federal money is looking for a good home–to make better.

But you don’t have to get involved with Beltway bureaucrats to claim a share. The George Washington Regional Commission–the Planning District covering Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, and Caroline–is administering the funds in the form of rebates through the HELP (Home Energy Loss Prevention) program. Yes, there’s a little paperwork and a home inspection to complete, but once the work, which employs local contractors, is done, the GWRC sends full or partial rebates to homeowners in "two or three days," says HELP director Kevin Byrnes.

The Department of Energy-funded program, which uses funds approved under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to upgrade homes 10 years or older, covers the purchase and installation of new water heaters, windows and doors, furnaces, and central air-conditioning systems. It also pays for ductwork insulation, HVAC tune-ups, programmable thermostats, and weatherization.

The real savings, of course, come when a homeowner is able to heat or AC his or her own home rather than the rest of the planet. One HELP beneficiary, Jill Gajarksy of Fredericksburg, recently told The Free Lance-Star that the program not only subsidized her purchase of a new furnace, air conditioner, and other improvements for her home in Fredericksburg’s Normandy Village, but "I will now save up to [a projected] 42.2 percent on my energy bills."

So, middle-income homeowners interested in HELP for basic energy-savings projects (sorry, no solar panels) have until Dec. 31 to apply–either by calling Mr. Byrnes at 540/373-2890 or by visiting the website Yes, flim-flam is everywhere. But HELP is all cheese, no mousetrap.

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Date published: 11/22/2011