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Warm winter forecast for Wasilla home

Saturday, October 30, 2010

WASILLA — Possibly no one in the Mat-Su Borough is looking forward to this winter as much as Joan Pollock.

She spent the past several winters huddled in front of a space heater in her drafty, aging trailer house off Bogard Road trying to stay warm.

“This organization has been fabulous,” Pollock said. “I can already tell a difference. Now you can just walk in there and feel the heat.”

Joan Pollock of Wasilla stands with Curt Christiansen in front of her mobile home which was weatherized last week as part of a class offered by Alaska Housing Finance Corp. (Heather A. Resz/Frontiersman)

Her home was part of a week-long class Alaska Housing Finance Corp. organized to help train Alaska weatherization professionals in typical techniques to improve the energy efficiency of mobile homes. And, Alaska Works Partnership brought up Chris Clay from the Building Performance Center in Bellingham, Wash., to teach the class.

“I really appreciate what they’ve done,” Pollock said. “They worked really hard.”

The weatherization work done to her home was completed through the Alaska Community Development Corp., one of five agencies in Alaska that does weatherization. Alaska’s 12 to 15 Housing Authorities also offer weatherization help, according to Curt Christiansen, rehab program coordinator for the Alaska Community Development Corp.

“We can’t do everything every home needs,” he said. “But on this house we just kept going. It was in really bad condition.”

Christiansen said by using the mobile home as a training project, Pollock was able to get more of the help she needs to stay warm this winter.

While Alaska has long had a weatherization program, it grew eight-fold in 2008 when then-Gov. Sarah Palin increased appropriations for home energy rebates and weatherization to $360 million for five years.

About 3,000 to 4,000 homes with be weatherized in Alaska this year, Christiansen said. The improvements save the average homeowner 20 percent to 25 percent on their energy bills.

The increase in funding also has created a statewide increase in demand for skilled workers to provide energy assessments and home improvements, Christiansen said.

“Quite a lot can be done to weatherize a trailer home, even though they aren’t the best structures for Alaska,” he said.

One of the biggest changes to Pollock’s house is the roof, which was covered in 2-inch foam board and then overlayed with a single sheet of Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer, or EPDM, and fastened to the roof under the home’s eves.

A common misconception is that installing energy-efficient windows and doors will create the biggest savings. But that’s not true, Christiansen said.

“Stopping air leaks is the most critical piece of weatherization,” he said.

Classmembers — including contractors from Bethel, Tok and Anchorage — also repaired the mobile home’s road barrier and blew insulation in the subfloor to protect the pipes, Christiansen said.

Todd Lance and a couple of his employees from TeLance Services of Anchorage participated in the training. They were blowing insulation into the trailer’s subfloor Thursday afternoon.

Lance beamed with pride as he recalled Pollock’s reaction Monday when she walked in her house: “Holy cow, it’s warm in here,” she said.

“I’ve seen people’s lives transformed,” Lance said.

Christiansen suggested people who want more information about the state’s weatherization or energy rebate programs should visit, or Some programs are based on need, while others are not, he said.

There is a waiting list for weatherization assistance, but he said people who are interested should get their name on the list before the funding runs out.

Heather A. Resz