Twenty Bowie residents are being green while staying out of the red this summer through new energy efficiency grants the city introduced earlier this year.
Bowie has joined several other Prince George’s County municipalities in offering home renovations through the Prince George’s County Municipal Collaboration, which applies for state grants as a group.
Bowie councilman Henri Gardner, the council liaison for the city’s environmental committee, said the city joined the collaborative program because officials felt it was important to offer residents a way to live more sustainably while also cutting costs.
“The city wanted to look for additional services to assist residents with [financial] needs,” he said. “Around the world there are people who are still feeling the pinch from the slowdown of the economy. This is one area where we thought we could be helpful.”
The energy efficiency assistance grant program allows low and middle income residents to apply for energy audits and cost-saving upgrades, said Kristin Larson, Bowie’s sustainability planner.
“[The program provides for] cost-effective improvements that would help homeowners or residents save money on their utility bills,” Larson said. “Usually the most cost-effective things are air ceilings, weatherizing your home, closing up holes and insulation.”
Larson said many older homes in the Bowie area have only a few inches of insulation — or no insulation at all — which falls far short of the area standard of 1 foot of insulation and allows heat or air conditioning to escape residences.
Rebecca Stromsdorfer of Bowie, a homeschooling mother of five, said her family applied for the program in February because their electric bill had become a heavy financial burden — up to approximately $300 per month during the summer and higher during the winter.
“We have five children and one income and we’re paying a tremendous amount in utilities,” Stromsdorfer said. “We use a lot of electricity because there are a lot of us and we’re home all day.”
Stromsdorfer said a team hired by the city assessed her 1985 home and made the repairs at the beginning of the summer, which included insulating the attic and replacing the air conditioning and heating units.
“They said the insulation wasn’t horrible in the attic, but it wasn’t up to standards,” she said. “The main problem was our heater was five years older than the house and the air conditioning unit [was not] compatible and did not work properly, so it was just costing us a ton.”
While Stromsdorfer said she hasn’t received an electric bill since the changes were made, she said it is estimated the energy-efficient repairs will save her family up to $150 a month, cutting the summer energy bill in half.
“I can’t wait to see what the winter bill looks like,” she said.
Larson said Bowie would like to expand the assistance program — which was capped at 20 participants this year — to more residents in the future, but that the expansion will depend on the amount of funding the Prince George’s County Municipal Collaboration receives each year. Larson said the energy efficiency assistance is something the city is interested in pursuing annually.
“This is probably something we’ll do in the future,” she said.