Evanstonians have a great opportunity to help win a $25,000 energy-efficiency upgrade for a local nonprofit organization – while saving energy and reducing their utility bills at the same time.

The City of Evanston is participating in a special initiative – the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program Community Challenge – designed to help homeowners and businesses save energy and money by participating in one or more Nicor Gas energy efficiency programs. The challenge takes place in Evanston and Oak Park through April 30, 2013.

For every Evanston resident and business participating in one of six efficiency programs, Nicor Gas will award $50 towards an energy efficiency project selected by the Evanston community – up to a total of $25,000. A potential $85,000 in Nicor Gas rebate and incentive offerings will also be available for the project.

To select the beneficiary of the upgrade project, the City facilitated an online voting process Feb. 1-11, inviting community members to cast their vote for one of four nonprofit organizations. The City then forwarded the results of this community survey to Nicor Gas for final approval of the beneficiary. (Results were not available at the time of this writing.)

Winning the Challenge

The Nicor Gas initiative is intended to jumpstart Evanston’s efforts to achieve community sustainability goals by making it easy and affordable to improve building efficiency. There are programs for home-owners, business owners and owners of multi-family buildings.

Details about each program and how to sign up are available at NicorGasRebates.com/challenge.

1. EnergyBUZZ.  This free online tool helps Nicor Gas customers track their energy use, compare their usage with that of friends and neighbors, and learn what they can do to save money on their utility bills. EnergyBUZZ helps participants set goals, create to-do lists and track their progress. As participants reduce their energy consumption, they earn points that can be redeemed for coupons and incentives from local retail businesses.

Evanston businesses can get involved by signing up as EnergyBUZZ Rewards Partners. Each participating business decides on the type of award it wants to offer and how often the award can be redeemed. The program helps businesses reach new customers and gain community recognition as leaders in sustainability.

2. Home Energy Savings.  This Nicor Gas program makes reducing home energy use as easy as 1-2-3.

• Step one is to schedule a home energy assessment by calling 877-821-9988. A certified energy advisor will evaluate the home and provide a customized report, detailing the recommended energy-efficiency improvements, the cost and the estimated payback time. As part of the $99 assessment, the adviser will also install free energy-saving products, including Compact Fluorescent Lights, water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators, and hot water pipe insulation.

• Step two is to review and sign the proposed work plan. Homeowners will be pleasantly surprised at the low price tag, thanks to an instant rebate of 70 percent
of the cost of eligible weatherization improvements, up to $1,750.

• In step three, a participating program contractor will schedule and complete the work, which generally takes just one or two days. The final bill will reflect the instant rebate.

3. Home Energy-Efficiency Rebates.  Cash rebates are available to homeowners for the purchase and installation of high-efficiency equipment, including boilers, water heaters, and furnaces – and bonus rebates are available for replacing both a furnace and a central air conditioner at the same time. 

4. Business Energy-Efficiency Rebates.  Nicor Gas business customers are also eligible for cash rebates for high-efficiency products and services. These include space heating equipment, water-heating equipment, commercial kitchen equipment and more.

5. Small Business Energy Savings.  The SBES program offers small business owners a free energy-use assessment of their facilities, free installation of a variety of energy-saving products, a report detailing recommended energy-saving improvements, and assistance in applying for ComEd and Nicor Gas rebates of up to 60 percent of the qualifying cost. The program is available to businesses that use less than 60,000 therms/year and have peak electric demand of 100 kilowatts or less.

6. Multi-Family Home Energy Savings.  Owners of multi-family properties can save money and add value to their property by signing up for free energy-saving products offered by Nicor Gas and ComEd. A trained technician will install high-pressure, water-saving showerheads, high efficiency faucet aerators, CFLs and state-of-the-art programmable thermostats in every unit.

Monitoring Evanston’s Progress

RoundTable readers can track how much money Evanston is raising by visiting the Evanston section of the Community Challenge website at NicorGasRebates.com/challenge.  Hopefully, they will not be leaving any NICOR money on the table when the challenge concludes on April 30.