Rebate program encourages Marylanders to start thinking about winter

Maryland residents now have more reason than ever to give energy efficiency a chance, as the state government is offering incentives to get homeowners to think green before the arrival of cold winter weather.

Empower Maryland, a program run by the state's Division of Energy, is offering homeowners rebates of up to 50 percent if they make eco-friendly retrofits to their property in anticipation of cooler temperatures.

Specifically, the program is encouraging residents to take an extra look at their hot water heaters and seal up any potential leaks to ensure that they are running at optimal performance. Should homeowners take the extra step and replace these units, Empower will give them up to $3,150 in cash for solving the issue.

The goal of Empower Maryland is to decrease the state's overall carbon footprint and curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 60 percent of all properties in the Mid-Atlantic were built prior to 1960, which makes them two-thirds less energy efficient than modern homes.

The EPA has also found that nationwide, no matter when a house was constructed, homeowners currently have the potential to reduce their energy consumption by at least 25 percent by becoming "energy wise." This means that most homeowners are not aware of more efficient lighting fixtures and appliances, nor are most homes properly insulated to reduce home heating bills.

Government officials told the Baltimore Sun that they anticipate Maryland residents can collectively reduce utility consumption throughout the state by more than 25 percent if everyone does their part. An energy audit from a home inspection contractor is the first step homeowners should take in helping the state lead in efficiency.