Town aims to be first green suburb

Levittown, N.Y. In a town known for its pioneering history, residents, businesses and community leaders here are forging ahead with a plan to create the nation's first entirely green suburb. The goal of the GreenLevittown program is to encourage all of the community's 17,000 households to make energy-efficient changes to their homes, thereby reducing the town's carbon footprint by 20% in 2008. As

Levittown, N.Y. — In a town known for its pioneering history, residents, businesses and community leaders here are forging ahead with a plan to create the nation's first entirely “green suburb.”

The goal of the GreenLevittown program is to encourage all of the community's 17,000 households to make energy-efficient changes to their homes, thereby reducing the town's carbon footprint by 20% in 2008.

As one of the program's first corporate sponsors, it will be the job of Tragar Oil to persuade homeowners here to replace their aging and inefficient boilers with some of today's most advanced equipment.

While organizers hope to contact all residents by Earth Day on April 22, Dennis Traina Jr., Tragar Oil's vice president, knows it will take time for homeowners to make major commitments.

“People don't just decide to change their boiler in three months. I think over the next year, we're going to be able to see the results of this project,” he said.

Complicating matters is that some residents have great affection for their home's existing copper-and-concrete radiant systems, originally installed when developer William Levitt built “America's first suburb” in 1947, because of the heat the systems provide. They're reluctant to make changes.

Traina is using the GreenLevittown program to encourage these homeowners to upgrade their equipment rather than paying to have their original boilers fixed. He said many such boilers require a great deal of maintenance and have components that are out of date.

“The equipment is old, and at this point, it's even sometimes hard to find replacement parts,” he said.

Under the program, Traina's company is offering several Energy Star boilers, including a triple-pass non-condensing boiler from Buderus. Traina said the boiler greatly enhances efficiency by reducing heat loss and lowering oil consumption.

Most, if not all, of the boilers in homes here are in the kitchen or underneath stairs in the center of the house.

“This community is not a prime community for a condensing boiler, like a wall-hung gas boiler, because of where the boilers are located, so what we're doing is putting in the most efficient non-condensing boiler,” Traina said.

For residents who do not wish to replace their boilers, the company is recommending they replace their old burner with a retention head burner. Traina said the change could increase an old boiler's efficiency by 15%. To ease homeowners' concerns about the costs of boiler replacement, the GreenLevittown program is offering incentives, such as low-interest financing options, he said.

Traina estimated that homeowners who take part in the program and replace their boiler could save $800 to $900 per year in lower heating fuel costs.

Saving money on heating oil is a primary concern for many residents who have expressed an interest in the GreenLevittown program, according to Brad Tito, deputy director of environmental coordination for Nassau County.

“People are very interested in what we're talking about,” he said. “They are struggling with the high price of fuel and they're responding by wanting to make changes in their homes and in their lives.”

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi is spearheading the GreenLevittown program to make residents aware of both its environmental and cost-saving benefits, Tito said.

“Unless you engage ordinary Americans and really market it to them in a way that saves them money and does something positive for them in their lives today, it will never really take off,” Tito said. “People are too concerned with paying their mortgage or their kids' college tuition or dropping their kids off at soccer practice. They're not thinking about the polar ice caps or sea level rise 20 years from now. They're thinking about just getting through this month.”

To date, Tragar Oil has completed three boiler installations, and about six more households have requested an estimate, said Corey Baty, a sales representative for the company. The firm also supplies bioheat to more than 2,000 customers here, and hopes to persuade more consumers to switch to the cleaner burning fuel under the GreenLevittown program, Baty said. The fuel is comparable in price to that of regular heating oil, he said.

“It's nice to know the working class people of Levittown are able to do something about the global warming issue without having to really break free from their normal everyday routine or implement something that is out of the ordinary,” Baty said.

The company also is partnering with EarthKind Energy to install solar hot water heaters in the homes of interested residents.

Traina said homeowners here who have older equipment must lower their thermostat every time they take a shower or run the dishwasher, adding that some residents taking part in GreenLevittown want more reliability.

“A reliable supply of hot water is one of the most underestimated luxuries that every home should have,” he said.