Federal Cash Balloons Weatherization Dollars
July 27, 2010
By Charles Slat Need a new fridge? How about a new furnace? Is the water heater leaking?
Replacing such appliances can gut the budget of limited-income families, but an expansion of the Monroe County Opportunity Program’s “weatherization program” is helping more homeowners stretch their bucks during hard times.
Thanks to the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, MCOP has received $2.8 million to spend over three years to make area homes more energy-efficient. The non-profit community action agency typically gets an allocation of about $230,000 a year, says Stephanie Kasprzak, MCOP director.
“Typically, in a year, we would do 70 households,” she said. “With this, we’ll do 400.”
The work includes a complete energy audit on the home, energy education, wall/attic/foundation insulation, air leakage reduction, and health and safety measures.
Weatherizing involves several tests to ensure energy savings, including a pre-inspection of the home, a blower-door test to measure air leaks, a carbon-monoxide test, a gas-leak test, the furnace is tested and cleaned, the refrigerator is metered for replacement and all water heaters are tested to determine the most cost-effective measures to be considered for replacement.
Over the past year, 136 homes have been weatherized, 115 qualifying refrigerators replaced, 63 water heaters replaced, 164 furnaces cleaned and tuned, 96 furnaces replaced, and 110 gas leaks detected and repaired.
Working with the Department of Human Services and the stimulus funds, MCOP has been able to replace quadruple the amount of furnaces for energy efficiency and health and safety reasons, such as high levels of carbon monoxide.
Ms. Kasprzak said the agency has a $6,500 limit per household that it can work up to, including the fees paid to contractors to do the work. The threshold used to be $3,100 per household.
Only Monroe County residents are eligible, with income limits of ranging from $5,862 over three months for an individual to $14,880 over three months for a family of six. There are no out-of-pocket costs for eligible households and weatherization typically can cut a household’s energy costs by 30 percent over a year.
“They increased the income level a little bit so more people could become eligible, which is wonderful,” Ms. Kasprzak said.
“We want to make sure people know that there’s still an opportunity for people to apply for funding,” she said.