Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS - The sweltering summer heat can mean skyrocketing energy bills, but that's not the case for some local homeowners. Their 'green' homes are making a big difference.

When you take a look Cory Matthew's large, historic Uptown home, 'energy efficient' probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But his energy bills say it all.

'Last summer, my bills were in the mid-$600 range. Last two months, my bills were less than $50,' said Matthews.

With help from state and federal programs, Matthews recently brought new technology into his historic home, making it more energy efficient.

In the last two months, he's saved hundreds of dollars on energy bills. When last month's arrived bill, he was beyond himself.

'I wanted to leave all the lights on, wanted to make it so cold, I had to wear a jacket during the summertime,' smiled Matthews of the $37 bill.

Matthews attributes the drastic decrease to several 'green' factors in the home, none of which are visually obvious. He has special insulation in the walls, under the hardwood flooring, and in the attic, which has become tolerable even in triple digit heat.

'Think about this being like a big ice chest,' said Matthews. 'It's nice and insulated all the way around.'

Matthews also has solar panels, which aren't visible from the street, and a solar-powered water heater.

'Basically, I'm running my house off of hot water,' said Matthews.

An energy efficient design has also made a big difference for Collin Foots, 67.

After Hurricane Katrina, Foots was one of the first participants in the 'Make it Right' program, which constructed high-efficiency houses in the Lower 9th Ward after Katrina.

'It helped me out a whole lot in my household,' said Foots.

Foots has lived on the same parcel of land since 1968. But now his home has solar panels, special insulation in the walls, and high efficiency bulbs, cutting his energy bills in half.

'Oh, I'm enjoying my house, really,' said Foots.

He noted that his most recent gas and electric bill was about $95; those services ran him about $200 in the summertime before he moved into an energy efficient home.

Meanwhile, Matthews said, his renovations were worth every penny. But with tax credits and reimbursements from state and federal programs, he paid a fraction of the price.

And going green isn't just helping his wallet.

'We can't do enough for Mother Earth,' said Matthews. 'I'm not a tree hugger, but it is good to know you can do good things and just save things. We're not wasting energy.'

A state program reimburses up to $3,000 to make your home more energy efficient. And a federal tax credit is available when you buy green appliances and hardware.

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