When the temperatures drop, the heating bill goes up. That’s a fact of life most households, whether they own their home or rent, must contend with every year. What some of those households may not know, however, is there is a program available in their area that can dramatically reduce their heating bill at no cost to them.
Blue Valley Community Action Partnership offers free home weatherization services to income-qualified individuals and families throughout its nine-county service area. The typical home has dozens of potential problem points where conditioned or heated air from inside can escape, and cold or hot air from outside can enter. BVCA’s weatherization crew can insulate attics, sidewalls, basements and/or crawl spaces, weatherize cracked and seeping windows, repair or replace damaged or deteriorated doors, and repair heating systems, among other energy-conservation measures.
All this is done at no cost to the client, as long as the household’s annual income is 200-percent or less of the statewide poverty level based on household size (i.e. $49,200 for a family of four).
The impact on heating costs is immediate and noticeable. BVCA’s program is one of the most effective in the state, with before-and-after comparisons showing an average reduction of 22.7-percent in gas bills, and 9.7-percent in electric bills, according to director Kelly Davis.
In August, Davis completed his 28th year in weatherization, and he knows better than most how much the process has changed as better technology became available.
“When I started, it was simple: find the hole, fix the hole,” Davis said.
These days, computers generate models to guide the weatherization process, and it’s made the program even more effective, he explained.
“I’ve tried to out-guess the computer, and I can’t do it,” Davis added.
It’s Energy Auditor Shane Greenwood’s job to create those computer models. He said the process begins with a thorough on-site inspection to collect data.
“Everything goes in,” Greenwood said. “Total square footage of walls, attics, basements and foundation, any existing insulation, the materials used in construction, the size of the studs.”
He continued that there are too many variables to list them all individually, but offered as an example that a north wall, which doesn’t receive much direct sunlight, will profile differently than an otherwise identical east wall.
“The east wall will experience solar-gain (warmth from the sun), while the north wall won’t,” Greenwood said.
Once all the data is collected and entered, the computer identifies improvements with the desired S-I-R (savings investment ratio).
“In order for us to make an improvement or repair, the S-I-R has to be at least 1.0, meaning it will pay for itself at least one time in energy cost-savings over 10 years,” Greenwood explained. While 1.0 is as low as BVCA can go, many improvements will pay for themselves many times over the course of a decade.
Households can participate in the weatherization program whether they own their home or are rental tenants, Davis noted. He said that in the case of the latter, the landlord has to give permission for the work to be done, but the income eligibility is based on the tenant, since they are the party paying the bills.
To begin the application process, find out about eligibility, or simply to learn more about the program, interested parties should call Davis or Nicole Gaston at (402)729-2278, or email them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weatherization program is available in Butler, Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Polk, Saline, Seward, Thayer, and York Counties.