At the upcoming Ayer Town Meeting, citizens will have the opportunity to do their part to make Ayer a “Green Community” by voting yes to the stretch code. A “Green Community” is a state designation that means Ayer has taken a hard look at its energy use, made plans to reduce that use, has taken steps to encourage renewable energy resources, set out to upgrade its fleet of vehicles with more fuel-efficient models where possible, and has adopted the stretch code. Adopting the stretch code would be the last step Ayer has to take.

Once Ayer has achieved Green Community status, we are eligible to apply for grants from the state to fund energy-efficiency projects for the town. These grants are funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Across Massachusetts, Green Communities have launched efficiency projects that cut their energy costs by tens of thousands of dollars. Think about what we could do with the money we save on oil, electricity and gasoline! What budget gaps could we fill? So far 53 Massachusetts towns have achieved this status.

What is the stretch code? This is a building code that applies to residential new construction, additions and home renovations and commercial new construction and additions. The code requires a test of the energy efficiency of a building. A Home Energy Rating System (HERS) inspector must rate the house for its energy efficiency on a scale starting at 0 for a “Zero Energy Home.” On average most houses have a rating around 120 on the HERS index. Current codes get most homes down to about 100. Stretch code homes must rate 65 on the index.

For the home owner, this amounts to a consumer protection for energy efficiency on your home. The HERS tests measure how well the insulation was installed, the efficiency of the ducts, etc. It also allows for a great deal of flexibility. In an historic home where window replacement might pose unique challenges, efficiencies can be made in other areas like the lighting, water heater, or furnace. At the end of the day, additional expenses incurred for energy efficiencies are more than covered by savings in fuel and power costs.

As energy costs increase, people are looking for ways to save money through efficiency. Adopting the stretch code will help new home buyers and people making home improvements to learn about and implement methods for saving energy and the multitude of rebates currently available to support these technologies at home. Adopting the stretch code will also mean savings to the town as we become a Green Community and receive support for energy-efficiency projects. To make this happen, come to Town Meeting and vote yes for the stretch code.