Autumn kicks off tomorrow, followed soon by much cooler weather. Of course, we all know that we need to make sure our homes are weatherized correctly in order to keep your family cozy, save money and conserve resources.
Most weatherization changes actually aren’t too expensive. In fact, in the long run weatherization will save you cash. Still, some families can’t afford even inexpensive weatherization costs – there’s simply no money to spare – period. This sucks, but thankfully, there are resources and organizations that can help you out.
The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) offers a Federal Grant Program, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), has provided weatherization services to more than 6.4 million low-income families over the last three decades, and it can possibly help you too. The WAP enables low-income families to permanently, and often significantly reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Families who participate in the program can expect to see their annual energy bills reduced by about $437, depending on fuel prices and home location.
The type of weatherization received is based on your home’s needs, but may include low-cost improvements like a basic energy audit, weatherstripping, roof insulation, water heater wraps, an all-around energy systems safety check and more. In California, I know that one family even got a microwave while participating in their local weatherization program , because a microwave uses less energy than an oven and stove.
Are you eligible?
The DOE estimates that around 20 to 30 million U.S. families are eligible for WAP. Home owners AND renters are eligible for this program. Renters must get landlord permission, but I’m guessing it’s unlikely that a landlord will turn up their nose at free home improvements. If you live in live in a single-family home, multi-family housing complex, or a mobile home you’re eligible.
Because services are provided by local state weatherization agencies, your eligibility for the program will vary depending on where you live. If you receive Supplemental Security Income or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, you are automatically qulified to receive weatherization services. States also give preference to folks over 60 years of age, families where one or more members has a disability and families with children.
Of course income is a consideration, and if your income falls below the “200% poverty level” defined by DOE, then you qualify. Keep in mind that some states use a third alternative to set eligibility if your income is less than 60% of the median income in your state.
You can see if your income is eligible by visiting the DOE guidelines page. While you may be eligible there is also a waiting list for services so the sooner you contact your state agency and apply the better.
If you can’t get assistance through WAP you may find the following resources handy:
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This program assists low income households in meeting their immediate home energy needs. Depending on need, LIHEAP may be able to offer you bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance and weatherization and energy-related home repairs. All fifty States , the District of Columbia , five territories, and about 140 Tribes and Tribal organizations receive LIHEAP grants each year. To apply or learn more, you should call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project, a free service providing information on where your can apply for LIHEAP. You can speak to someone at NEAR Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Mountain Time) at 1-866-674-6327.
Check with your local energy provider: Most energy providers offer information about local energy assistance programs. For example, if you live in Portland, OR and have PGE, you can set up an online account, and once logged in, look for the financial assistance link. This link discuss local programs like Oregon Energy Assistance Program (OEAP) and Oregon HEAT. No matter where you live, you can ask your local provider about programs available for heating and cooling costs or weatherization help.
Lastly, if you can’t find program help, you may be able to weatherize on the cheap, on your own. Yes, new doors and windows help conserve energy, but so do much lower priced options. Plus, if you weatherize yourself, you may qualify for 2011 energy tax credits. See the following links for DIY weatherization help: