hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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April 4, 2012

Running a home on the cheap

In these days of high heating bills, it's hard to believe.

"We're essentially heating this house with the equivalent of a hair dryer per floor," City Councilor Sven Amirian said.

He was talking about a building at 134 Cedar St., which was bought by a local veterans organization and the city and rehabilitated into a home with the latest energy-saving devices.

The city and the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center used more than $260,000 in federal money from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program to buy and renovate the home. John Ratka, head of the veterans group, envisioned that the house be as "green" as possible — energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

Amirian helped by using the Deep Energy Retrofit program in conjunction with National Grid to provide major insulation upgrades to the home.

Several years ago, the building was abandoned and foreclosed upon. The city of Haverhill and the veterans group held a ceremonial ribbon cutting last Friday, just hours before two veterans moved into the home.

"This is what happens when the federal government, the state government, the local community, friends and neighbors chip in to get something done," Ratka said.

The property scored a 44 on the Home Energy Rating System. The lower the score the more efficient the house is in energy use. Prior to the renovation, the house scored a 129, which was below the standards needed to pass current energy codes.

Features of the home include a solar thermal system, which provides the building with hot water, and a scanner which automatically gauges temperatures and makes adjustments accordingly. The bottom floor of the house will use only $400 on heat and air conditioning each year, while the top floor will use $200 on the same utilities.

The house is a two-family home, with a veteran and his dog moving into the bottom floor of the house, and another veteran living upstairs. Both veterans declined comment for this story. They were two of more than 10,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were homeless, in temporary housing or using federal vouchers to pay rent as of May 2011.

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