Last year, after a stretch of frigid weather, Mike Showalter walked out of his Silver Spring home and saw icicles that stretched from the roofs of some homes to the ground.
“We knew from those icicles forming that a huge amount of energy was being lost through the roofs of our homes,” said Showalter, who is president of the Maryland Mutual Ten, a homeowners association in Leisure World.
He said the 158 single-story duplexes were built in the early 1970s, and because of inadequate insulation in the attic, heat was escaping and melting the snow on the roofs.
Now, Montgomery homeowners are working to improve energy efficiency through projects that are partially paid for by the county.
The association is one of 43 businesses or multi-family dwellings to receive a total of $1.7 million from the county to help pay for energy-saving projects. Showalter said his neighbors primarily are installing upgraded attic insulation and ensuring that their homes are properly sealed.
The association received a $75,000 grant from the county, and the association will pay another $75,000 toward the upgrades. Last year, Showalter and 33 other homeowners completed the same projects at their own expense.
Eric Coffman, senior energy planner with the county’s Department of Environmental Protection, said the rebates are part of a federal grant that also has paid for $2.5 million in improvements to county government buildings.
The final county rebate to come from the federal grant will provide an additional $1.2 million to homeowners who agree to complete energy-efficiency projects in their homes.
Coffman said the county already has approved 69 applications for projects, totaling about $1 million. Homeowners can apply for rebates of as much as $3,000 for projects such as air sealing, insulation, heating and cooling, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heating and appliances.
He said the average homeowner in a single-family home could save between 10 percent and 30 percent annually on energy costs by completing such projects.
“Back when [our homes were built], energy was very cheap, and there were no requirements about the amount of insulation that had to be present and nobody cared about insulation back then,” Showalter said. “As a result, almost none was put in. The walls were left uninsulated. The attics had the most minimal insulation. They were very far below today’s standards.”
After upgrading his home, Showalter said he was able to keep his thermostat about 2 degrees lower in the winter and 2 degrees higher in the summer. He was unable to calculate his energy savings because the association has a master meter. He said as much as 40 percent of condominium fees go to pay for electricity.
“We’re trying to use our project to encourage other similar communities built at the same timeframes to do the same type of work we’re having done,” said Showalter, who also serves as chairman of the energy advisory committee of Leisure World.
The county also offers about $500,000 in property tax credits for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects each year. There is a backlog of several years because the number of applicants exceeds the budget, Director of Finance Joseph Beach said.
Coffman said the county’s focus on energy efficiency is part of its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. He said his office is in the process of analyzing how much progress the county has made toward its goal.