Families seeking weatherization help for area houses continue to increase
by LUCIE R. WILLSIE, Associate Editor
Sep 27, 2010 | 1452 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SAVING ENERGY — From left, Jackie Westfield, program coordinator at the Community Services Agency, and area homeowners Ida and Leonard Gricus can look forward to saving money due to the energy savings created by insulating the floor under the main living area of their house, having the water heater wrapped and installing a new heat pump. Banner photo, LUCIE R. WILLSIE
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Ida and Leonard Gricus have been married 54 years.

The Gricuses were used to expecting an electric bill in the $400 range each month.

Now they anticipate their energy bill will be reduced to around 30 percent of their recent bill to around $135 per month. This savings is due to the weather-stripping around all three outside doors, the insulation under the floor of the main living space, the wrapping around the water heater, the new heat pump and the new air conditioner.

Now it takes much less energy to heat and cool the couple’s home.

This saving also is a life-saver to them. Money is tight, especially in this economy, and health issues have taken a toll on their finances; plus, they are retired and on a fixed income.

Because of these energy-saving improvements, the Gricuses can breathe a bit easier and enjoy their senior years with a little more peace of mind, more comfort in their home and a little more ease in their finances.

And the Gricuses have both their daughter, Diana, and Jackie Westfield, program coordinator at the Bradley/Cleveland Community Services Agency, to thank. Their daughter told her mom about the weatherization program available in Cleveland. Mom applied. And CAP did the rest.

“I am very pleased,” Leonard Gricus said. Not only was the work superb, but the workers cleaned up everything and were extremely courteous, he said.

“We were blessed,” Ida Gricus said. “I’m very thankful.”

Due to funding from the Washington, D.C., stimulus grant package last year, weatherization help went from 19 households in the previous year to a total goal of 158 this past year by the end of September. It is a two-year grant.

This weatherization program assists low-income families who lack the funds to buy more energy-efficient heaters, air conditioners and water heaters.

“But people need to understand this is not a rehab program,” Westfield said.

A rehab program can cover the installation of new floors, roofing and other major structural repairs. Westfield pointed out, “This program strictly provides energy savings for a homeowner or a renter.”

Work includes attic and floor insulation, sealing holes and spaces that let air in and out of the house, such as weather stripping, window glazing, seals around plumbing and fixing broken glass.

To be accepted in the program, potential clients must meet income guidelines and either get a release from their landlord and/or proof of ownership. Income qualification for a one-person household is 200 percent of poverty levels or $1,805 per month or $21,660 per year; for a two-person household it’s $2,428 per month or $29,136.

It can make a big difference if a household can reduce its utility bills by 40 percent, Westfield said.

“It’s a never-ending program,” Westfield said. “We are continually taking weatherization applications.”

The waiting list is long, but the weatherization projects won’t end even when the stimulus money ends. Right now, there is roughly a minimum of a four-month wait to get started on the process, helping people right now who applied in February.

The program is straightforward. A client signs up at the Community Services Agency, is put on a waiting list, and an auditor is sent out to do a computer-generated audit when a client’s name reaches the top of the list. The computer then creates a list of cost-effective work that needs to be completed that will have the best energy savings for the client. The computer-audit is put on the state website for 10 days for bids by an approved contractor, who then has up to 30 days to complete the work. A second audit is then done to make sure the work is completed properly.

“We keep coming back if it’s not done right,” she said.

For this first part of a two-year program, $1.2 million total was received through the stimulus program.

For more information, access the website WAPTAC.org or call CSA at 479-4111.