ENERGY RETROFIT TOOLKIT

 

This database is to help homeowners, renters, landlords, and others better understand the benefits and challenges that may come with the use, maintenance, and energy-efficient retrofitting of historic and older buildings. It will highlight the potential to retrofit and upgrade buildings with the most up-to-date and current considerations to improve building performance while not sacrificing their usability or existing architectural characteristics. This database explores best practices for buildings within Ithaca, New York, but has wide-ranging applicability.

Information about energy retrofitting is arranged in the following categories:

Performed to determine the initial operating efficiency of your building and identify problem locations and systems.

To educate and assist you in understanding how you use your building while encouraging better practices that can result in large energy bill savings.

Do-It-Yourself and professional work to reduce energy use and ensure the highest performance level of your building.

Products, systems, and appliances that can reduce your overall energy usage and/or reduce your carbon footprint.

Incentives, rebates, loans, and assistance that can make investing in energy retrofits affordable.

Historic Buildings:

It is important to note the differences between a historic building, a contributing building in a historic district, and a generally older, existing building. Historic buildings and properties are designated by national, state, or local landmark status to represent the characteristic architecture of a certain age, a location where a famous person has lived, exhibited an important cultural event, or was designed by a famous architect. A designated historic district is a section of a city that contains a grouping of older buildings considered valuable for historical or architectural reasons. A contributing building in a historic district adds to the characteristics which define the district. A historic building may be located within a historic district or may stand on its own. For more information on the local historic building and district designations, see the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission for addresses and maps of historic districts.

Historic buildings, contributing buildings, and districts are designated and available for federal, state, and local tax incentives for approved retrofits and repairs that are specific for historic buildings and districts. Older buildings without historic significance don’t have to follow or receive the approval of the historic preservation or landmarks commission unless they are located in designated historic districts. Older buildings often are made of durable natural materials of high quality and take advantage of the local environment and vernacular design strategies. These qualities add to the value and desirability for preservation in the community and probably contributed to your interest in the property, so it is important to ensure the work you perform doesn’t compromise it.

Repair, Deconstruction, and Reversibility:

This database favors repair and maintenance and believes that reducing material waste and disposal should be considered in the sustainability of a building. For more on embodied energy and deconstruction take a look at the Deconstruction Resource Guide produced by the CROWD (Circularity, Reuse, and Zero Waste Development) Working Group.

Any retrofit that you attempt should take into account reversibility, which is the consideration of reducing harm to a historic or older building. The work or retrofit can be adapted and removed if required in the future. Many reversible retrofits aren’t less effective than their irreversible counterparts and offer the potential to not visually impact or damage the building. Reversibility of repairs and retrofits is often a requirement for the eligibility of federal, state, and local assistance and tax incentives.

ENERGY AUDIT

 

An energy audit is an assessment of your home that looks at current energy consumption and identifies the measures that can make your home more energy-efficient. An essential first step, an energy audit can help you establish the baseline building performance, a benchmark of building performance, and a plan of attack for improving your energy efficiency. 

Energy audits can be done yourself with a few preliminary, straightforward tests or by professionals who take a more in-depth approach. The information gathered during the energy audit is invaluable as it provides you with an outline for what needs to be done, saving you time and money.  

Thermal Imaging: Left image shows thermal imaging of the building at the time of energy au

Figure A: Thermal Imaging: Left image shows thermal imaging of the building at the time of energy audit before adding insulation to exterior walls. Right image shows thermal imaging of the building after insulation addition. Darker exterior walls depict evidence of cooler surfaces that are losing less heat (more energy efficient).

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm Photo by EYP Architecture & Engineering)

Figure B: Blower door test utilized by professional energy auditors to depressurize a buil

Figure B: Blower door test utilized by professional energy auditors to depressurize a building and measure air leakage in a building with pressure gauges and tracer smoke.

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm Photo by Robert Cagnetta, Heritage Restoration, Inc)

A step-by-step guide to do-it-yourself energy audits.

Professional Audits can be performed by utility companies, HVAC installers, community organizations, or environmental assessment companies. For a list of local, certified professionals and organizations check out the following document prepared by NYSERDA.

NYSERDA offers no-cost energy audits to all homeowners in New York state.

Consult with Get Your GreenBackTompkins, an initiative of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County, who can assist and perform energy advising for free. 

 
 

USER BEHAVIOR

Living sustainably and energy efficiently also means being aware of how you live within a building. Many historic buildings take advantage of local environmental and climatic considerations and the addition of more modern operations and tools (air conditioning, radiators, electronic devices, and lighting) may work in opposition to how the building was originally constructed. For this reason, it is important to recognize how you, as an occupant, play a factor in the efficiency of the building.

Ventilation

Fresh air is important for odor and combustion management. To reduce air-conditioning usage in the summer months, open windows for cooling only if it's cooler outside. Keep windows closed during hot and humid days. 

Figure C: Original steel windows were made operable in rehabilitation to add natural venti

Figure C: Original steel windows were made operable in rehabilitation to add natural ventilation and retain historical appearance.

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm)

Adjusting Thermostats

A building’s temperature should be adjusted according to daytime occupancy needs and the seasons. Consider installing smart thermostats which adjust according to your occupancy of the building, reducing heating and cooling when the building is empty. For heat pumps talk to your contractor about how to best set your temperatures. Heat pumps are designed to maintain temperatures very efficiently by running continuously.

If you are a NYSEG customer, there are rewards programs for smart thermostats and upgrading of your thermostats:

Smart Savings Rewards Thermostat Program 

Residential Rebates

Getting the Most from Your Heat Pump

Resources:

Check out the following resources to learn how user behavior impacts energy consumption and helpful strategies to reduce wasteful energy consumption in buildings.

WEATHERIZATION

 

Weatherization is the practice of protecting a building from the elements and reducing the loss of conditioned air. This reduces energy consumption and optimizes the building’s energy efficiency. Weatherization steps vary in cost and level of intensity; however, the simplest, and most important step is building maintenance. Building maintenance reduces material failure and disrepair.

 

Building Maintenance Resources: Make sure to check Historic Ithaca’s webpage for homeowner workshops on building maintenance. Additionally, check out National Park Service Preservation Brief resource for building maintenance.

Building Maintenance Resources:

Make sure to check Historic Ithaca’s webpage for homeowner workshops on building maintenance. Additionally, check out National Park Service Preservation Brief resource for building maintenance.

Air Infiltration

An energy audit can assist in determining the areas of largest energy loss due to air infiltration. “Figure D” demonstrates the impact air infiltration can have on a building’s efficiency. After air leaks have been found it’s important to seal up the cracks and reduce the attributes of infiltration. An ideal goal would be to reduce air leakage to no greater than 3 ACH50---the standard established by the NYS Residential Code (and 2015 International Energy Conservation Code). Most older homes are measured to have an air leakage of 9 ACH50 before any work is done. These values for air leakage are determined through energy audits and a blower door test (view “Figure B”). To further understand this tool and calculation refer to the following link:

https://www.tinypowerhouse.org/air-leaks-2

As you air seal a building, you will need to discuss controlled ventilation with your contractor.  

Resources:

Please consult the following resources to find trained people who may assist you with weatherization

Figure D: Major sources of air leaks (infiltration) in residential buildings(Source: https

Figure D: Major sources of air leaks (infiltration) in residential buildings

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/sustainability/energy-efficiency/weatherization/air-infiltration.htm with data from DOE)

Windows & Doors

According to the Department of Energy, poorly maintained windows and doors can account for a 10% to 15% increase in your energy bill. The answer isn’t to install new components but to repair and improve what you already have. Historical and original windows and doors have a great potential in preserving the historic character and generating energy savings. 

Window Lifespan:

New windows made of vinyl or aluminum boast a high energy saving potential but have a low operating lifespan of about 20 years until they need to be replaced—most new windows aren’t repairable. With repair, maintenance, and a little elbow grease, historic and original windows can survive for 50+ years. This is primarily due to their high-quality materials and repairability. In addition, wood windows before 1950 are made of valuable materials like old-growth trees. Lumber from these trees is better at holding paint and is more rot and warp-resistant due to its tighter grain. 

Window Repair:

Repair of windows works to maintain existing historic character, reduce waste, and reduce high expenses incurred through the purchase and installation of new (often low-quality) windows. Repair of windows falls into three types of repair that can be identified through a visual inspection of your windows at least once a year: routine maintenance, stabilization, and parts replacement.

Resources:

For more specifics on these processes, check out the National Parks Service Technical Preservation Bulletin.

For additional resources and a directory of recommended professionals check with the Window Preservation Alliance

Also, check with your local historic preservation office (Historic Ithaca) for homeowner training sessions and a list of recommended local contractors and tradespeople who can repair historic windows.

Figure E: Reglazing windows are common maintenance and prevent unwanted air infiltration a

Figure E: Reglazing windows are common maintenance and prevent unwanted air infiltration and water damage.

Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/47-maintaining-exteriors.htm

Storm Windows:

A great way to increase energy efficiency without removing historical and architecturally significant windows from your building is the addition of storm windows. The Department of Energy states that the installation of storm windows could result in doubling the efficiency of existing windows. Storm windows can be fixed to the interior or exterior of windows. The addition of a storm window approaches the efficiency of a double-pane window. Storm windows offer similar energy efficiency as new, modern double-pane windows at a fraction of the cost. A few considerations:

  • Take care to avoid damaging the existing window frames

  • Select storm windows that share the historical appearance and character of the windows

  • Ensure storm windows meet rails and other divisions that match windows

  • Ensure the storm window is tight-fitting and in good working condition

  • Ensure moisture isn’t being trapped between windows due to improper installation

Figure F: Operable wood storm windows in Cornell Heights Historic District. (Source: City

Figure F: Operable wood storm windows in Cornell Heights Historic District. (Source: City of Ithaca Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development. “The City of Ithaca Historic District and Landmark Design Guidelines,” 2013, pg 59. https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/78/Historic-District--Landmark-Design-Guidelines-PDF.)

New Windows & Replacements:

New windows should only be pursued after it is determined infeasible to repair existing windows and install storm windows. When installing new windows, you should take careful consideration to match the qualities of the original windows. This includes:

  • Matching material of window frame

  • Matching color of frame and glass

  • Matching rails and divisions of windows

  • Checking dimensions of window and panes

  • Window performance ratings for new windows can be found here

Doors:

Original solid wood doors offer excellent thermal properties and add character to a building. To maintain and ensure the effectiveness of your door, ensure regular maintenance of caulking and weather stripping to reduce thermal loss. In cold climates, storm doors can be added to reduce heat loss. In adding storm doors consider the following:

  • Match existing architectural features and colors of building and doors 

  • Avoid in hot climates due to minimal energy savings it will provide

  • Avoid when the historical character of a door is obscured by the storm door

Resources:

Before working on or replacing windows and doors it may be helpful and necessary to check with Historic Ithaca or the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission to see what kind of restrictions your building falls under if it is a locally listed historic building or you are located in a historic district.

Historic Ithaca Contact:

607-273-6633

info@historicithaca.org

Insulation

Many older buildings don’t have much insulation. Adding insulation reduces energy loss and increases your thermal comfort inside the home. Consider the installation of selective insulation that offers the most cost-effective answer to heat loss. This will reduce the damage such work could do to your building and reduce unnecessary expenses. Determining the best location is complex but here are some suggested strategies:

Energy Audits:

Tests that an energy auditor runs can work to locate where your building loses the most energy. This knowledge can be used to specify the location where insulation can be added.

Roofs & Attics:

Natural air movement and the temperature difference that occurs between heated and unheated spaces make roofs and attics the most important locations to add insulation. The greater accessibility of attics makes them cost effective to insulate. Additionally, roofs and attics are normally fairly accessible for adding insulation. For best results consider hiring a professional.

Additional locations of Insulation addition:

  • Basement and crawl spaces

  • Ducts and pipes

  • Exterior walls

Different Types of Insulation:

 Refer to the following table developed by Get Your GreenBack Tompkins to understand how common types of insulation differ and to see their general material costs. 

Screen Shot 2021-10-13 at 11.34.07 AM.png

Figure H: Table comparing common types of insulation.

(Source: https://www.tinypowerhouse.org/insulation)

Considerations for Historic Buildings:

While insulating offers great potential in reducing energy usage and ensuring a comfortable living space, carefully consider the following:

  • It is important to consider how air and moisture can and cannot move through a building when adding insulation.

  • Consider levels and methods of reversibility with your contractor when planning for insulation.There are many considerations to keep in mind. 

  • Caution should be taken when adding insulation to previously un-insulated cavities as its addition could produce potential dangers. An example of this is when insulation is added to a wall cavity with old wiring (knob and tube). This scenario can lead to fires. The best strategy would be to consult professionals and consider other home improvement retrofits before insulation is added. 

Figure I: Dense-packed cellulose insulation being blown into cavities through holes drille

Figure I: Dense-packed cellulose insulation being blown into cavities through holes drilled in the sheathing. Once complete, shingles will be reinstalled.

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm Photo: Edward Minch) 

Screen Shot 2021-10-13 at 11.46.12 AM.png

Figure J: Rigid Foam Insulation (blue in the diagram) added above the existing roof. Insulation is tapered as it reaches over eaves to reduce an increase in profile and visibility from below. (Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm)

Figure K: Batt insulation added between joists in the attic with radiant barrier tacked be

Figure K: Batt insulation added between joists in the attic with radiant barrier tacked between rafters in the attic.

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/3-improve-energy-efficiency.htm)

Resources:

Shading Devices

The use of shading devices to reduce sun exposure is a less common strategy for energy savings, but quite effective. This includes adding curtains and shades to the interior and awnings and deciduous trees to the exterior. 

On the exterior, planting deciduous trees on south-facing elevations can reduce heat gain in the summer, and allow sun exposure in the winter as leaves fall. Awnings can be appropriate if they have historically been used, will not cause irreversible damage and they fit the building type, such as commercial buildings and storefronts (See Figure L). Covered porches are a common sight in local residential architecture and they can reduce sun exposure to interior spaces (See Figure M). 

Figure L: South Cayuga Street c.1915 depicting downtown commercial buildings with fabric a

Figure L: South Cayuga Street c.1915 depicting downtown commercial buildings with fabric awnings.

(Source: City of Ithaca Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development. “The City of Ithaca Historic District and Landmark Design Guidelines,” 2013, pg 75. https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/78/Historic-District--Landmark-Design-Guidelines-PDF.)

Screen Shot 2021-10-13 at 12.31.04 PM.png

Figure M: Examples of covered porches in the City of Ithaca.

(Source: City of Ithaca Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development. “The City of Ithaca Historic District and Landmark Design Guidelines,” 2013, pg 61-62. https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/78/Historic-District--Landmark-Design-Guidelines-PDF.)

Resources:

General Guidelines and Assistance for Weatherization:

Weatherization offers great potential for improving the quality of your living spaces and reducing the amount of energy your building consumes. In weatherizing your building, make sure to follow state and local requirements and take advantage of knowledgeable professionals. 

Resources:

Financial Assistance Resources:

 
 
 
 
 
 

APPLIANCE & HVAC SYSTEM

Once you have implemented weatherization techniques to reduce the loss of conditioned air, it is important to tackle the other substantial energy waste in older buildings: your building’s appliances and HVAC system.

Energy Star Appliances

This includes water heaters, electronic devices, house appliances, and lighting. Energy Star appliances are certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as energy efficient. Consult the Energy Star website for certified products and additional benefits of using Energy Star certified products.

Converting from gas range stoves to electric ranges with conduction or induction cooking surfaces or switching away from any gas appliance can also help residential properties reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Additionally, consult with your Community Energy Advisor who can recommend practices to further optimize your energy efficiency.

HVAC Systems

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are the equipment, piping, and duct work that heats, cools, and dehumidifiers the building space. Consider the cost and potential energy savings associated with different systems. On average, New York households spend nearly $2,500 on heating annually. Information like this, and more regarding household energy use in New York, can be assessed from a report gathered by the Energy Information Administration. Reducing the need for heating and cooling is an important part of this as well. 

Heat Pumps:

Thanks to recent innovations with heat pump technology, heat pumps have become climatically and economically feasible in the Ithaca area. In basic terms, a heat pump works by using the difference between exterior and interior temperatures to exchange heat and adjust the temperature of interior, conditioned spaces to the desired temperature (See Figure N). Heat pumps are refrigeration systems that use electricity to move heat from a cold place to a hot place. This can work to both heat and cool your home. This is achieved in two different ways: air-source heat pumps and ground-source heat pumps.

Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems:

Once a building reduces its air infiltration it is important to properly ventilate and remove stale air that has accumulated. Energy recovery ventilation systems allow for the circulation and ventilation of air to maintain indoor air quality while reducing energy waste. Energy recovery ventilation systems come in two types: heat-recovery and energy-recovery. View this article by the Department of Energy to learn more about these systems and their importance when ventilating your building.

Figure N: Diagram of an air source heat pump in operation. (Source: https://www.tinypowerh

Figure N: Diagram of an air source heat pump in operation.

(Source: https://www.tinypowerhouse.org/renewable-heating)

To learn more about these systems, their applicability, and affordability, see the HeatSmart Tompkins.

 

Take time to explore the HeatSmart Tompkins’ fact sheets and Learning Room which includes videos of local properties, some of them locally designated historic properties, with heat pumps:

 

Review incentives and recommendations through Smart Energy Choice and Get Your GreenBack Tompkins’ Powerhouse.

 

You can also consult the CCE Tompkins Heat Pump information page.

High-Efficiency Fossil Fuel and Biomass Systems:

While not ideal from a renewable energy standpoint, fossil fuel systems such as oil, propane, and gas and biomass systems may be necessary to install due to location, cost, and additional factors. If you choose to install one of these systems make sure to select equipment that is 90% to 97% efficient --- this could go a long way in reducing energy consumption.

Check out this furnace saving comparison calculator to determine how much you could save and what the payback period would look like in installing a high-efficiency system.

Appliance & HVAC Systems Maintenance

Maintenance and servicing of equipment are important because appliances and equipment only perform at their reported efficiencies with proper maintenance and upkeep. Make sure to either service them yourself or have them professionally serviced at least once a year (or when directed). Changing filters, promptly dealing with any leaks, and paying attention to strange noises or smells is important. 

Ithaca Electrification Plan

The City of Ithaca seeks to retrofit and electrify 1,000 residential structures and 600 commercial buildings by 2025. This program offers low-to-no-interest loans with bundled, easy to apply for incentives through NYSERDA for buildings approved in the City of Ithaca.

Resources:

Check out the following resources to learn more about Financial Assistance for HVAC and Appliance upgrades:

Alternative, Renewable Energy Sources

Following weatherization and increasing energy efficiency, you could consider the transition to renewable energy for your electricity usage. While your building may no longer be burning fossil fuels, the utility company providing your electricity very well may. If this is a concern of yours, there are options that you can pursue.

PV Solar:

Photovoltaic (PV) solar systems are an effective strategy for producing electricity on site. For more regarding solar energy, check the CCE Tompkins Solar information page.

Figure O: PV solar installed on  residential historic property. (Left) Front facade doesn’

Figure O: PV solar installed on  residential historic property. (Left) Front facade doesn’t show evidence of solar installation.

(Right) Solar panels are installed on the rear porch roof---out of public view.

(Source: https://www.nps.gov/tps/sustainability/new-technology/solar/porch-roof.htm)

Community Shared Solar:

Installation of a personal solar system can be expensive and depending on the site specifications, may not be feasible. Instead, consider one of two shared community solar options: a purchase option and a subscription option. Both options allow you to utilize renewable energy from a community solar farm.

  • A community solar purchase option allows you to purchase panels and have them installed at a solar farm with optimal location and no shading. You use the energy produced and get credited for extra energy produced.

  • A community subscription solar option allows you to buy solar credits from solar farms in your region without owning panels.

Resources:

For more information on community shared solar check out the following resources:

Figure P: Community Solar by Renovus Solar in Ulysses, New York. (Source: https://renovuss

Figure P: Community Solar by Renovus Solar in Ulysses, New York.

(Source: https://renovussolar.com/custom-solar-solutions-new-york/community-solar/)

Resources:

Check out the following to learn more about financial assistance for solar projects:

Check out the following to learn more about financial assistance for solar projects:

Wind Power:

Although less popular, and with more opposition, wind power has the potential to provide renewable energy both at the shared community grid and on-site scale.

Resources:

For more information regarding wind power, check out the following link:

Considerations for Historic Buildings

Mechanicals, HVAC systems, and utility connections are vital in today’s buildings, but it is important to consider the visual impact such additions have on historic and older buildings.

 

The following strategies to limit their visual impact should be pursued:

  • Properly plan and ensure that appropriate and sufficient space exists

  • Attach such equipment to non-primary elevations

  • Rooftop equipment, including HVAC and solar, should be concealed to reduce visibility and maximize the potential for reversibility

    • Set back from the roof edge

    • Work to reduce raise above the existing roof height

    • Equipment should be the same color as the roof

  • Installation of HVAC equipment including air-source and ground-source heat pumps:

    • Place compressors and additional equipment on non-characteristic or hidden elevation

    • Utilize unfinished attic and basement spaces to direct pipes

    • Flexible duct may be helpful to maneuver through existing conditions in attics and basements, but they reduce the efficiency of the equipment

    • Run risers along building lines on rear elevation and direct all horizontals through attic or basement

    • Hide pipes

Figure Q: Heat pump compressors (Left) located on rear elevation utilizing existing window

Figure Q: Heat pump compressors located on rear elevation utilizing existing window opening to connect to building

(Source: City of Ithaca Department of Planning, Building, and Economic Development. “The City of Ithaca Historic District and Landmark Design Guidelines,” 2013, pg 94.

https://www.cityofithaca.org/DocumentCenter/View/78/Historic-District--Landmark-Design-Guidelines-PDF.)

Resources:

If your building is locally listed or in a locally listed historic district, reach out first to the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission and consult the City of Ithaca Historic District and Landmark Design Guidelines:

FINANCIAL RESOURCES

 

Retrofitting of a historic building can vary wildly in cost depending on starting condition, desired outcome, and available funds to pursue. Luckily, a wide range of financing options is available. Some resources fluctuate in eligibility and availability and have an expiration date. In the case that this information is not up to date, Historic Ithaca is not liable. Historic Ithaca is sharing information and if you wish to utilize such information and resources, always check for updates online, or with your NYSERDA-supported Community Energy Advisor.

National Funding Sources

Federal Investment Tax Credit Program for Income Producing Properties:

Federal income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This could cover 20% of the rehab costs for work done on projects which are historic commercial, office, industrial, or rental residential buildings. All work must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standard for Rehabilitation and be approved by the National Park Service.

Federal Tax Credit:

A federal tax credit exists for ground source heat pumps and/or solar PV installations.

State Public Funding Sources

New York State Tax Credit Program for Income Producing Properties:

For properties that are using the “Federal Investment Tax Credit Program for Income Producing Properties”, this New York state tax credit program is also available.

New York State Historic Homeownership Rehabilitation Credit:

For people who own and live in a house that is listed in the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places or contributing buildings in a listed Historic District this tax credit can be utilized when rehabilitation expenses are $5,000 or more and 5% of the work is exterior.

New York State Energy Research and Development Agency:

New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) offers a wide range of incentives that can be utilized by homeowners, renters, commercial building owners of varying income levels on energy retrofitting. To review these programs, click "Learn More" which can filter programs by applicable sector and technology being implemented:

For home energy efficiency programs consult NYSERDA’s planning tool that can be customized to your county and number of people living in your house or apartment:

In some cases, NYSERDA programs are made possible by their approved loans. Review by clicking "Learn More"

Local Funding Sources

Local Tax Incentive for Historic Preservation:

The City of Ithaca has a local tax incentive for locally designated historic structures and contributing buildings in Ithaca’s local historic districts. Consult with the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission and applicable documents to determine eligibility and usability of the tax incentive:

Real Property Tax Exemption for Capital Improvement to Residential Property:

County property tax exemptions for capital improvements on residential property. Both single-family and two-family residences are eligible. Only improvements are eligible for this exemption. Check with the Tompkins County Assessor’s Office and applicable documents to determine eligibility:

Finger Lakes Climate Fund:

The Finger Lakes Climate Fund is a project of Sustainable Tompkins that promotes clean energy projects and building retrofits in the Finger Lakes Region. The fund is built through grants and carbon offset donations by community members. The fund primarily seeks to assist low to moderate-income households afford their projects and reduce their energy usage, as well as award incentives for heat pump installation in partnership with HeatSmart Tompkins. Local, certified contractors by NYSERDA, apply for the Finger Lakes Climate Fund on behalf of customers. For more information, look at the Finger Lakes Climate Fund page:

Refer to HeatSmart Tompkins’ incentives and financing guide to understand more about the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and applicable funding sources for heat pumps:

Ithaca Electrification Plan:

The City of Ithaca seeks to retrofit and electrify 1,000 residential structures and 600 commercial buildings by 2025. This program offers low-interest loans with bundled, easy to apply for incentives through NYSERDA for buildings approved in the City of Ithaca.

Local Utility Funding Sources

NYSEG (New York State Energy and Gas) also provides rebates for its residential, multifamily (renters and owners), commercial, and industrial users. For general information on its rebates and programs check out their portal.

Residential Rebates:

NYSEG offers rebates for residential natural gas and electricity customers who install high-efficiency equipment.

NYS Clean Heat Rebate Program:

NYSEG offers rebates for residential customers who install eligible heat pump equipment and use qualified contractors.

Local Financial Institution Loan Programs for Energy Retrofits:

A Few local Tompkins County financial institutions offer loans for energy improvements. For a consilidated view of those programs click "learn more."

Local Organizations Which Can Assist in Financial Planning:

There are many programs in Tompkins County that can assist in financing energy retrofits. Make sure to take advantage of the local organizations which are prepared to assist in navigating this complex environment.

Local List of Certified Energy Retrofit Contractors

Follow the link to the NYSERDA “Find a Contractor” page which can connect you to local contractors which are participating and verified to perform energy retrofits and assist in any rebates or applicable financing per NYSERDA and NYSEG:

Local Contacts

You are not in this alone! There is a wide range of organizations both public and private which have been established in the City of Ithaca and Tompkins County which may assist you in this process of energy retrofitting because after all, fighting climate change is not only a global challenge but one tightly bound to community action.

Resources for Energy Retrofitting & Weatherization

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This project is in part funded by the Historic Preservation Education Foundation and in part by a grant from the Daniel K. Thorne Intervention Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

About the Researcher

Andrew B

Andrew Boghossian was Historic Ithaca's summer intern 2021. While with Historic Ithaca Andrew created this online database for the community to use when planning energy retrofits to their buildings. The database provides strategies and information that are applicable for a wide range of buildings with a focus on older residential buildings. The database aids in sharing information from existing local organizations, state and national recommendations for historic buildings, and funding that can assist with building maintenance and energy retrofits. 

 

Andrew is pursuing an undergraduate degree in architecture with a minor in urban and regional studies He is familiar with sustainability through his work with the CUSD project team. Andrew explains “My work with Historic Ithaca has allowed me to create a tool to share and educate the community on [the project’s] potential.”

 

Andrew has contributed to our organization’s pillars of education, preservation and empowerment, through his work on this database. The ever changing social, cultural, economic, and environmental needs of our community are at the forefront of what Historic Ithaca does and we are honored to have such a talented group of employees and interns contributing to our goals.