OACAC weatherizes homes for low-income families as Natural Gas prices increase

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) is weatherizing 200 homes this year.

Springfield City Utilities recently told residents they could see a high utility bill in the coming months due to a increase in natural gas prices. Some residents were worried about how to pay their bills. But OACAC’s Weatherization Program could help some people.

“It’s a income based program,” Energy Auditor Brian Gray said. “The there’s income guidelines online. You basically fill out the application. Somebody will contact you from our office to go through it and get you set up.”

People must be 200 percent over the poverty level. For single person family, their income should be roughly $25,760. The income guidelines increase every January. Right now, there are 97 households on the waiting list for the weatherization program with 37 of those in Greene County.

“I’m on disability and retired so I’m on a fixed income right now,” Homeowner Les Harris said. “I have to watch what I spend and where I spend it. When something like [natural gas prices] goes up, I really have to pay attention to some of my other bills and kind of adjust for it.”

Harris applied for the Weatherization Program back in July.

“I could always tell around my windows and doors I could feel some cold air coming in,” Harris said. “I just kind of put up with the last two or three years. I was kind of under the impression that I wouldn’t qualify for [the program] but it’s an easy application to fill out.”

OACAC is working on Harris’ home for 3 days.

“We’re going to be adding insulation to the attic, we’re going to be insulating the crawl, adding the vapor barrier, insulate the water lines, add weather strips to the doors, and do caulking,” Quality Control Inspector Jim Young said. “It’s going to take about a day to put down the vapor barrier and insulate the floor. Sometimes we have older homes that need to be done to them so it might be 5 or 6 days to get those jobs done especially if they’re not in town. Sometimes our crew has to drive an hour and a half almost two hours just to get one way to a job site.”

The goal is to help cut utility and energy bills down.

“One of the largest things that we do is we make sure and provide that there’s a safe operating heating system in the home,” Gray said. “So if there’s something that has to be done with the heating system, whether it be fixed or replaced that stuff always gets done. On an electric system, we very rarely fix it unless it’s just completely broken. There’s not a lot to fix on an electric system, sometimes on an electric system, the program that we run stuff. Through will replace it with a heat pump, which is more cost effective to use. Sometimes an electric will be switched to a heat pump, which is still an electric system. It just works in reverse as an air conditioner and it draws the heat from outside.”

“We’ve had people tell us their utility bill is 25 or 30 percent less,” Young said. “I was at a home just a two weeks ago and the people said their first utility bill after we were done was 50 percent less than what it was before.”

Harris is hopeful his bills will also be lower.

“It will still be nice knowing that I’ll have a little more protection or a warmer house and not have to throw on that extra sweater or that extra blanket while I’m sitting here watching tv,” Harris said.

OACAC used to weatherize a house only one time, but now, it can weatherize a house every 15 years.
You can download the application on OACAC’s website. If you do not qualify for the program, there are other ways you can save money.

“One thing that I know works well is to get dark curtains, heavy curtains and put over the windows so that the air doesn’t penetrate through the window,” Gray said. “It’s also a good idea to close up any holes in the walls. Any holes in floors where the air can come in from the outside through crawl spaces addicts. Those types of places. If you can bring down [the heater] to 72 or 73, that’s a lot less time that the furnace is going to run which is going to add up in savings, over the Long Haul,” Gray said.

“One of our inspectors does an energy audit through the co-ops,” Young said. “Most co-ops will pay two-thirds of the audit cost. Have him come out and do an energy audit on your home and he will give you a detailed print out list of what is most cost effective to do to your home.”

OACAC has seven other programs that help those in need.

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