06/14/10 — Program helps make homes weatherproof, saves on utility bills

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Program helps make homes weatherproof, saves on utility bills

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 14, 2010 1:46 PM

Lynn Howard didn't realize it, but she was practically throwing money out the window.

At one point, her monthly utility bills were as high as $400, consuming almost 40 percent of her fixed income.

Since suffering a head injury in an automobile accident, she has struggled to make ends meet.

Then she learned about a weatherization program through WAGES, Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency.

In February, an energy audit was done on her mobile home. The assessment determined the 25-year-old heat pump was extremely inefficient, said Marlee Ray, WAGES' executive director.

"(It) had a history of maintenance problems," Ms. Ray said. "The weatherization staff also found that a 4x10 duct was disconnected and was blowing the conditioned air directly into the crawl space.

"In essence, Ms. Howard was heating the outside not the inside of her house."

The crew corrected the ventilation problems and did extensive air sealing throughout the home, Ms. Ray said. Other safety and energy-saving measures included installing a smoke alarm, water-saving devices and CFL light bulbs.

But the biggest change came with the installation of a new high efficiency heat pump.

These days, her monthly utility bill is less than $94, or an average savings of 33 percent, Ms. Ray said.

Ms. Ray called Ms. Howard a testament to how a community action agency like WAGES can change lives, mobilize resources and improve communities.

Others agreed, and Ms. Howard was invited to attend a reception with the WAGES staff at the Governor's Mansion, sponsored by the N.C. Community Action Association.

Ms. Ray said she would like to see others take advantage of the service. Funding is available for residents in Wayne, Lenoir and Greene counties who meet eligibility requirements.

"We have weatherization funds and HAARP (heating assistance repairs and replacement) funding where we did not earlier but we now have, that will allow us to replace their heat and/or air conditioning system based on energy efficiency," she said. "They do have to meet income eligibility, which is 150 percent above poverty, but we can give them those guidelines."

Residents must also have a heat unit or heat source, she said.

For more information on the program, or to inquire about obtaining service, call Faye Skinner at WAGES, 734-1178, ext. 226.