Earth Day Energy Challenge begins in Virginia

Unlike their counterparts in other parts of the country, Old Dominion homeowners may be fortunate to not have to endure harsh winters marked by blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and the high home heating costs that come with them. Still, that does not mean that energy savings are not able to be realized.

The Earth Day Energy Challenge, sponsored by the Richmond Region Energy Alliance (RREA), encourages energy efficiency in the homes of Virginians. Homeowners who live in Richmond, Ashland, Chesterfield, Powhatan, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent or Charles City can use the organization's website to conduct a free home energy assessment. Of all participants, five will randomly be chosen to win a free home inspection and energy assessment from a qualified D.C. home inspector.

"Our goal is to help people better understand their home energy use and the value professional home energy assessments provide," RREA executive director Bill Greenleaf said in a press release. "The first step to realizing potential savings on monthly utility bills is understanding where energy is being wasted and our online home energy audit can go far in facilitating that process."

This program is not the first of its kind in Virginia. The state's Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) offers $7 million in reimbursements to property owners who retrofit their homes with energy-efficient heating and insulation, windows, programmable thermostats, water heaters and boilers. Individual homeowners can receive reimbursements equal to 20 percent of all improvements, up to $2,000.

Even homeowners who are not participating in the challenge can improve their home energy efficiency by contacting a Washington, D.C. home inspector to shed light on possible retrofits and improvements that can be made to slash energy bills.