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Federal money helps make homes energy efficient
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Weatherization assistance

Apply: Those qualified can apply at for help weatherizing their home

More info: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, 770-887-2418; Ninth District Opportunity, 770-5340-0548

Efforts to make homes in Northeast Georgia more energy efficient have gotten a breath of life thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As part of the two-year stimulus program, Amy Cunningham, an energy educator with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, is working in a 14-county area to inspect homes and educate the public about weatherizing a home.

Georgia received $125 million from the federal government to expand weatherization services and education. The money provides for new employees and makes more people eligible for assistance.

“The income limitation went from 150 percent of the poverty level to 200 percent,” Cunningham said. “There’s more money than they’ve ever had, so they should be able to help more people.”

The poverty level varies depending on the number of people per household; a four-person household making $44,100 or less annually would qualify for the weatherization program.

Also, Agencies now can spend up to $6,500 on each house, up from $2,500.

Cunningham works in cooperation with Ninth District Opportunity.

“Ninth District has been doing weatherization for at least 15 years,” Cunningham said.

Weatherization assistance candidates are low-income households that spend 15 percent to 19 percent of their income on utilities. The average household spends 3 percent to 5 percent.

“It really is an important program,” Cunningham said. “That can be significant savings.”

To weatherize a home, a test is done to find where there are cracks and drafts that are letting in air.

Once the problem areas are identified, measures like sealing attic areas, installing insulation, caulking, making window repairs, replacing broken window panes, repairing doors, weather stripping or adding door sweeps may be used to help seal a home.

“If you have a more weatherized home, you don’t have to turn up the heat as much,” Cunningham said. “We really are improving people’s lives.”

After the home is weatherized, Cunningham works with people to teach them the best ways to be energy efficient.

She helps people read their utility bills to track how much energy they are using.

“We are hoping to see some behavior changes as well,” Cunningham said.

The elderly, disabled and those with children younger than 3 have priority for weatherization assistance.

The federal government first started considering ways to conserve energy under former president Jimmy Carter.

“Back then we were having an energy crisis,” Cunningham said. “That was the first time we really took a look at our dependency on foreign oil. A lot of things changed after that for the better.”

Cunningham said she also provides education for anyone in the community, not just those receiving weatherization assistance.

“I think anybody can save money on their energy costs,” Cunningham said. “There are things everyone can do to make their homes more energy efficient. We can’t control what the prices are, but we can show how they’re using less.”

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