Sealing homes for savings
Crawling under old houses can be a nasty job, but it’s one that insulation expert Jim Mattson has been doing for Community Action for many years. Adding insulation to the underfloor, walls and attic of a home can go a long way toward improving comfort and reducing electric costs, Mattson said.
Community Action crews -- in photo, Brian Moore, left, and Mattson -- along with local contractors add insulation, seal air leaks, install weather-stripping, replace windows and doors, improve ventilation, replace light bulbs, put in new thermostats and install ductless heat pumps.
Not every home needs all that work, said Rachel West, Weatherization and Energy Assistance Program director. Before work starts, Energy Auditor Rob Moser spends 4 to 8 hours at each home determining exactly what it needs. Even before that, there’s pre-approval paperwork to fill out in the Wenatchee office at 620 Lewis Street to make sure a customer is eligible for the free services.
The process takes about three months. Crews work year-round and complete about 30 projects a year.
Federal, state and PUD grants pay for the projects.
Through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Community Action helps pay up to $1,000 in electric, natural gas or oil heating bills from October through June. The agency helped 900 households in 2017.
West noted that households that qualify for heating help based on income also qualify for energy efficiency upgrades. Homes that have been weatherized should use less energy, which could reduce the need for help paying bills in the future.
Low-interest home repair loans
Some homes don’t qualify for free energy upgrades because of badly needed repairs. Community Action now has $214,000 to loan to residents to make those repairs.
Loans of up to $40,000 can cover any repairs that would have caused homes to be deferred from weatherization. “The main one is asbestos (in old insulation),” West said, “but it could also cover things like replacing a bad roof, fixing plumbing issues, or changing out old knob-and-tube wiring. The goal is that by correcting these issues, we can then provide the free weatherization services to their home and the measures we install will be protected.
“For example, we wouldn’t want to install insulation in an attic of a home with a bad roof because the insulation wouldn’t be protected. By repairing the roof first through the home loan repair program, we could then justify weatherizing that home.”
Homeowners can contact Community Action for details at (509) 662-6156.
Enough warmth to go around
If you’ve never known a day when you had to decide between gassing up the car or paying your electric bill, consider yourself lucky. Then consider donating to Helping Hand.
Chelan PUD partners with Community Action to provide short-term help to customers who find themselves short of cash, especially during the holidays. The Helping Hand program relies on donations from customers looking for specific ways to help their neighbors.
You can contribute to Helping Hand every month through your electric bill, or make a one-time donation. All donations go to Community Action, which makes sure the funds are distributed to households where there is a documented need. Residents must have electric heat to qualify.