Making low-income homes more energy efficient
Over 400 homes in Otter Tail and Wadena Counties are expected to be weatherized using new federal funds this fall and winter.
About $5 billion has been made available for weatherization programs nationally as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Minnesota will receive $132 million over three years, of which $2.7 million will be going to Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council for distribution in this region on a three-year cycle. The agency has received $1.4 million so far for the weatherization program.
Steve Connell, Weatherization Director at OT-W CAC, said the weatherization of homes is a year-round process and they expect to serve 400 homes with the federal funds.
"The weatherization program is particularly important for low-income families who have a larger energy burden than the rest of us," Connell said.
Qualifying families receive a weatherization audit, which consists of an energy assessment of residential homes.
Weatherization grants are available to help low-income households reduce heating costs through:
Whole-house blower door audits, insulation, furnace and water heater inspections, repairs or replacements, caulking, weatherstripping and air sealing.
The weatherization program is funded by the Department of Energy and is open to homeowners as well as renters.
Siding, roofing, and electrical work generally does not fall under the program's rehab guidelines.
According to Connell, the program allows for up to $6,500 to be spent on each home.
The ARRA federal stimulus funds have allowed Community Action to add two more energy auditors to the staff. Connell also points out part of this federal funding is to create more jobs and retain local contractors. He said the federal government is pushing to spend the money this year.
"We need to pump this money into the local economy as quickly as we can," Connell said.
Otter Tail Power, Minnesota Power, Aquila and Great Plains, Cities of Henning and Perham contract with OT-W CAC to assist in weatherizing homes for their low-income customers.
For more information regarding the weatherization program contact Steve Connell at 1-218-385-2900 ext. 117, or toll free at 1-800-450-2900.