MANCHESTER/DORSET - Manchester, Dorset and other surrounding towns will be participating in the new Vermont Home Energy Challenge in an attempt to weatherize at least 3 percent of homes in the next year.

The winning town will receive a financial reward of $10,000, which can be applied toward a municipal energy project.

Alan Benoit, chairman of the Manchester Energy Committee, said that they are working on trying to weatherize more than the threshold for the prize.

"The minimum goal is that 3 percent of homes in a town are converted to improving their energy efficiency. The goal for any one town is to basically out-do all the others to beat the 3 percent target. The town that wins gets the $10,000 prize," he said.

William LaBerge, who is a member of both Transition Town Manchester and the Dorset Energy Committee, said that although the process is set up for towns to compete with one another, towns in Bennington County will work to pool their resources and, if a town in Bennington County wins the big prize, that the winnings would be shared throughout all the towns.

"It is kind of interesting because the way they set up the challenge is, it has the towns competing, which is kind of strange," he said.

"For me personally, I want to help all the towns. It just makes more sense to me. I would rather have towns cooperating with each other rather than competing. We all just said, 'lets figure out how we could spread this $10,000,' and we are still working on that."

One speed-bump LaBerge said they have encountered is that not every town in Bennington County has signed up. Only towns that have enrolled will have the money dispersed to them. However, there is still time for towns to join, he said.

The overall goal of the state is to have 25 percent energy savings in 80,000 homes by the year 2020. This is just the first step in that process since the challenge was launched in January 2013.

According to data provided from the Vermont Home Energy Challenge, Dorset would need to weatherize 27 of the 909 homes in the town to reach the 3 percent goal. Manchester needs to weatherize 61 of the 2,025 homes in town. For the entire state of Vermont, 7,698 homes out of 256,612 need to be weatherized to meet the goal.

"The next goal is to advertise what is going on, get people signed up and know when our events are and really just get the word out about what is going on," said LaBerge. "If you want to save $1,000 a year you should get the energy audit. You can save money, you will be more comfortable in your home, and you will lower your carbon footprint."

The area towns are collaborating with the NeighborWorks HeatSquad, which is a non-profit organization that helps to revitalize communities by helping homeowners to make health and safety repairs to their homes.

According to Maura Campbell, community initiatives manager for NeighborWorks of western Vermont HEAT Squad, they just recently made the move into Bennington County to help improve home energy efficiency by allowing a resident to receive a home energy audit for only $100 to see what there home lacks in energy efficiency.

Transition Town Manchester has also decided to spread the word and have been working to make Manchester a much more energy efficient town. They focus on reducing carbon emissions and strengthening the local economy in the process.

For information on a home energy audit contact the HEAT Squad at 802-438-2303 or visit heatsquad.org. To learn more about the Vermont Home Energy Challenge go to efficiencyvermont.com.