October 25, 2018
As cold weather approaches, Champaign County families are turning up their thermostats to combat dropping temperatures. For low-income families, however, that is not always an option. These families pay as much as 14% or more of their annual incomes for energy, compared with only around 3% for non low-income families. Unable to pay big balances or hefty reconnection fees, some families are considering how they will survive this winter without heat.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) can help. This program, administered locally by the RPC, provides permanent solutions to reduce the energy burden on income-qualified homeowners. Work done includes the installing of cost-effective, energy-efficient materials and services, such as high-grade insulation and window/door sealing; tune-ups, repairs, or replacement of furnaces; repair or replacing AC systems; water heater replacement; and refrigerator exchange.
Since its inception in 1976, WAP has weatherized more than 7.4 million homes across the nation. In the most recent program year (July 2017 through September 2018), the RPC weatherized 39 homes alone, helping those households save hundreds of dollars annually on their energy bills. The dollar savings alone make a big difference for these families. In addition, weatherization makes homes warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, and safer year round.
According to Mike Hunter, the RPC’s Weatherization coordinator, “This is an exciting time to be involved in home Weatherization. The utility companies are helping to increase our impact in the community, the state and federal funders are working to streamline our processes, and we are looking forward to better serving our clients in 2019.”
The RPC’s Weatherization technicians use computerized energy audits and advanced diagnostic technologies, such as blower doors and duct blasters, to conduct a comprehensive home energy audit and determine the most cost-effective measures for each home. They also assess related health and safety conditions, like checking furnaces and appliances for carbon monoxide. This measure can make a life-or-death difference for the families in these homes. Working with partner contractors, the RPC also installs CFLs and low-flow faucet aerators. The RPC’s weatherization work truly makes a difference every day for low-income families in Champaign County.
“It’s fulfilling to provide services that give families safer and more energy efficient homes,” says Lisa Benson, the RPC’s Community Services director. “We look forward to increasing the number of households provided these meaningful services in the upcoming years through increased partnerships with utility companies.”
In the most recent program year, 39 homes received services from the RPC’s Weatherization program. There were 75 individuals impacted by these services, which included 28 elderly persons, 24 disabled persons, and two children under six-years-old. Average material cost per home was $7,470.70.
Individuals and households that would like to learn more about the RPC’s Weatherization services and eligibility can call 217-384-1226 to make an appointment.