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Program helps low-income families save on power bills

Saturday, September 28, 2013

As power bills are set to increase in the next few days, people are looking for even more ways to cut back on energy costs.

For low-income families who can't necessarily afford high-end, energy-saving appliances, the Guam Energy Office is offering to replace them for free through its Weatherization Assistance Program.

Tina Mafnas, WAP coordinator, said a partnership with the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority that began in 2009 was awarded $1.1 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and an additional $198,908 to weatherize 237 homes in three years.

Mafnas said that so far, the money has allowed the Guam Energy Office to retrofit about 800 public and private homes.

"Our basic goal is to help lower their energy usage and save some money to use elsewhere," she said.

Energy audit

First, the agency does a home audit, testing the efficiency of the refrigerator, window air conditioner and other areas of the home that can be the biggest energy abusers.

Mafnas said that a big component of the program is teaching families how to save energy.

Once the audit is finished, the Guam Energy Office will replace the refrigerator, window air-conditioning unit, light bulbs, water heater, showerheads and other appliances with standard, more energy-efficient units.

Help with paperwork

Mafnas said the biggest deterrent for families is navigating through the application process, which requires a lot of paperwork to determine whether the household falls in line with the correct family size and maximum income.

But she also said the Guam Energy Office can help families apply for the program.

It's all free

Mafnas said that some families think that once the retrofit is finished, the Guam Energy Office will charge them for the new appliances. But it's not so. If a family qualifies for the program, all services are free, she said.

While the Guam Energy Office was partnering with GHURA for the last three years, Mafnas said that era is ending, but there are still funds available to help out at least 200 more households.