Weatherization program pays off in long-term savings

Monday, October 29, 2018

Most new homes are much more energy-efficient than those built decades ago, with thicker walls, more insulation and better windows, plus they contain appliances like furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators and even toilets that use less energy.

New zero-energy building standards have taken hold in Europe and spread to the United States, with the goal of creating as much energy — through passive and active solar, wind and other renewable energy sources — on-site as is used by the home.

The downside of the new standards is that construction is more expensive than conventional construction and not many contractors know how to build such homes as yet.

Still, a few relatively minor changes to older, existing homes can make a big difference when it comes to energy consumption. Unfortunately, people who would benefit the most from lower energy bills often cannot afford the improvements to achieve them.

That’s where the Nebraska Weatherization Assistance Program comes in.

Tuesday is Weatherization Day in Nebraska, spotlighting an effort that has been weatherizing homes for low-income and elderly citizens for more than 42 years.

Eight non-profit community service providers operate the program. Since the Weatherization Assistance Program began, over $204 million went to make energy efficiency improvements in more than 68,800 Nebraska homes affecting the lives of thousands of Nebraskans, many of who are elderly, disabled, and families with children. The program helps conserve energy and saves income for other basic needs. “The Weatherization Program is a powerful example of cooperation and coordination at local and state levels,” said Jim Macy, Interim Director of the Nebraska Energy Office. “Relying on local service providers enables us to address the needs of those needing help, and we get the added benefit of saving our energy resources.”

Clients apply through their local community action agency or non-profit housing provider to determine eligibility. Weatherization improvements include weather-stripping, insulation, replacing broken glass and performing furnace and water heater inspections. Estimated energy savings for the last 40 years total $118.5 million

“Our community service providers pay close attention to detail in the weatherization work performed on homes,” said Tom Tabor, Nebraska Energy Office Weatherization Program Manager. “Clients are identified by income and other factors, and then receive services as part of the program.”

Like many things, a little preparation pays off in the long run. Officials note that weatherization efforts contribute to the state’s economic, social, and environmental progress by creating jobs; improving the housing stock; stabilizing neighborhoods; reducing homelessness; eliminating carbon emission; and reducing the risks of fire.

They say the program, in a typical year, saves more than $180,000 in electric and natural gas bills, with a future savings of over $1.1 million.

Southwest Nebraska is served by Mid-Nebraska Community Action Partnership and can be contacted at the McCook office, 108 West C, (308) 345-1187. Information about the program is available at http://bit.ly/2O9XcgJ

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