As the economy continues to sour, New Haven residents face soaring heat and electricity prices. But they will soon have a place to go to learn how to save money.

The New Haven Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit organization that focuses on revitalizing neighborhoods, completed construction on its new Home Improvement and Energy Conservation Laboratory earlier this month. The lab, which will open in January, aims to give struggling homeowners free conservation lessons that may help reduce their heat and electricity bills.

“It’s the centerpiece of our broader post-purchase education [plan] for homeowners,” said Dr. Jim Paley, executive director of NHS. “We want to give them the skills necessary.”

With close to 400 foreclosed homes for sale, the Elm City has fallen prey to the same economic woes affecting so many American communities. Realtors at Century 21 estimate that electricity prices have spiked as much as 49 percent for some New Haven households—a trend that has driven many into foreclosure or poverty.

Paley said he has been receiving anxious calls from the community about these issues for some time. Hence, the Energy Conservation Lab had been in the planning stages long before the economy took its nosedive.

In addition to providing lessons, the building itself is a model of conservation. Paley said he hopes the building, which is anticipated to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards, will demonstrate that conservation is achievable.

The concept, Paley said, is to make it easier for low-income families to incorporate energy-efficient technology into older homes, which were built before such technologies became available.

The group is in the process of developing the curricula for energy conservation classes, but work on the building is complete, said Henry Dynia, director of design and construction at NHS.

The lab will also run a class on health hazards to warn homeowners of easily avoidable health risks in the home, Paley said.

“We want to do everything we can to help families in a bind,” he said.

The Lab held its opening ceremony last week.