Governor Earl Ray Tomblin last month signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 30 as National Weatherization Day in West Virginia.
Most families across the country have turned up their thermostats to combat dropping temperatures. For low-income families, however, cranking up the heat is not always an option. These families pay 14.4% or more of their annual incomes for energy compared with only 3.3% for other non-low-income families.
Unable to pay big balances some families are considering how they will survive this winter and heat their homes. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Initiative Pilot Program offered by the Southern Appalachian Labor School can help. This program provides permanent solutions to reduce the energy burden on low-income families by installing cost-effective, energy-efficient materials and services.
Since the inception of the program in 1976, more than 6.7 million homes have been weatherized across the nation. These households will save an average of 32% annually on their energy bills after weatherization work is completed. The dollar savings alone makes a big difference for these families. In addition, weatherization makes homes warmer in winter, cooler in summer and safer all year round.
Trained technicians use computerized energy audits and advanced diagnostic technologies, such as blower doors and infrared cameras, to determine the most cost-effective measures for each home. They also assess related health and safety conditions. They check combustion appliances for high levels of carbon monoxide and gas leaks where applicable.
An example of this was finding an elderly woman in Fayette County who is raising her handicapped son. Multiple gas leaks were discovered. After these leaks were repaired, she felt safe in their home once again. In addition, the program reduces energy consumption by insulating walls, attics and under floors, sealing air leaks and installing compact fluorescent lighting.
The SALS WIPP program also makes a difference every day for low-income families and in reducing the county’s carbon footprint.
In addition, the Southern Appalachian Labor School’s Weatherization Initiative Pilot Program also trains students at the Youth Build Academy to perform the weatherization protocols. This allows the SALS students to become employable in this field.
To learn more about this program, contact Debbie Spurlock at 304-442-3328, Vickie Smith at 304-640-3792 or Barbara Painter at 304-673-6370.