Riverside single-family homeowners interested in saving money on their home energy costs, while making their homes more energy-efficient, may be interested in a new program being rolled out exclusively in the village by CNT Energy in partnership with Nicor.

Through April 30, the owners of single-family homes in Riverside are being invited to access an online tool called MyHomeEQ (www.MyHomeEQ.com) which can provide information about their home’s energy usage and how to make it more efficient.

In addition, the site provides opportunities for homeowners to qualify for funding from Nicor to make energy-saving improvements.

“We hope people will try it out to get their home energy-efficiency ratings and to connect with the resources that are currently available through the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program,” said Stephanie Folk, spokeswoman for CNT Energy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to tackling urban sustainability issues.

CNT Energy hopes to roll out the program throughout the Chicago area by the end of 2011.

According to Folk, CNT Energy has been working for several years to develop an energy-efficiency tool to “help homeowners get the information they need to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.”

After developing MyHomeEQ, the organization partnered with Nicor, which has been trying to reach homeowners to promote its own energy-efficiency program.

Since May 2010, Nicor has tried to reach customers by sending postcards pitching its Energy Efficiency Program, which includes a home retrofit service. The utility company hopes to reach more customers using CNT Energy’s online tool.

“We partnered with [CNT] to test their front-end system to see if we can gather more customers that way, instead of just dropping postcards in the mail,” said Jim Jerozal, general manager of energy efficiency for Nicor.

The utility picked Riverside because it had the types of homes – older ones – that could benefit from their program. The area had also not been targeted by the postcard campaign. The village’s commitment to “green” initiatives also played a role in being chosen as the pilot community.

“If we get a response that’s equal or better to the postcards, we may roll it out to more communities,” Jerozal said.

As a result, when homeowners log on to use the MyHomeEQ tool, the software can use actual utility account and real estate information to determine an “energy score” for individual homes.

“It pulls up ComEd, Nicor and assessor’s data, not to tell a model but to give you an actual estimate of energy usage for your home,” Folk said.

When users input their address information on the MyHomeEQ web form, they will be directed to also include their Nicor account information to verify their identity.

“It uses your actual utility bills,” Folk said.

Users can see data comparing their homes to other similar dwellings in the area. They will also be given a list of recommendations to improve energy efficiency. In addition, the site can also provide information on contractors that have been vetted by CNT Energy and Nicor in case homeowners want to move forward with improvements.

In order to generate interest, until April 30, CNT Energy is providing some incentives. First, homeowners can sign up for a home energy evaluation for $50, which will provide “a professional energy audit or will evaluate your home and recommend the most effective energy-saving home improvements.”

Included with the energy audit is $40 in “free upgrades,” which includes compact fluorescent light bulbs from ComEd and faucet and shower-head aerators.

Finally, if homeowners decide to move ahead with energy-saving improvements, Nicor will pay half of the cost, up to $1,250, as part of its Energy Efficiency Program.

Find out if your home is energy efficient

Riverside residents interested in finding out more about CNT Energy’s MyHomeEQ online tool and how it may be able to help make their homes more energy efficient can attend a presentation scheduled for Thursday, March 31, at 7 p.m. at the Riverside Public Library, 1 Burling Road.

Bring your Nicor gas bill to get your customized home energy-efficiency rating and improvement recommendations. Staff from CNT Energy will be on hand to assist residents.

For more information contact Gail Philbin at 773-269-4067 or gphilbin@cntenergy.org.