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Weatherization help available

Thursday, October 28, 2010

As the winter chill looms just weeks away, qualifying low-income families can fortify their homes and lower their heating costs with the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program.

People in need of assistance can call 686-1670 to start the application process.

Weatherization manager Tony Lindow at Audubon Area Community Services said approved families will be placed on a priority list according to need. Some families have received as much as $6,500 in improvements so homes will be energy-efficient and warm, he said.

"Our inspectors will go out to the home and determine what needs to be done," Lindow said. "We'll see if we can put insulation in the house, in the attic or under the floor.

"We'll check out the furnace and if it needs to be repaired or replaced. We'll see if the water heater needs replacing, and we'll hook up the refrigerator to a watt-meter and if it's burning too high, we may replace that."

Other areas that may need work include weatherstripping, caulking and window kits to stop leaks, and safety devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

The program has a contractor and crew that will work on the house. The work may take a day or two, depending on the extent of the improvements.

"It's all about saving the homeowner money," Lindow said. "It's not cosmetic stuff. It can lower utility bills by about one-fourth."

The program currently has a list of 150 qualified families. Last year at this time, there were 300.

"I just did an application for a single male whose income is just under the guideline, so his priority number isn't that high, but yesterday I did one for a single mom with three kids living in a mobile home and has hardly any income, so we're going to get to them quicker," Lindow said.

Lindow said this is the time of year when he gets flooded with calls, when people realize their heater isn't working.

"If you call now, you're going to be on the list for a little while," he said. "If you called in the spring, we probably would've gotten to you by now."

The program is open to families whose incomes fall at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four can have no more than $44,100 in yearly income.

To apply, schedule an appointment and bring proof of income for all household members for the past month, Social Security cards for all household members, title to the mobile home or deed to the house and past 12 months of heating and electric bills.

Rich Suwanski