Handling the heating crisis

ELIZABETHTOWN As many people worry about how they will afford to heat their home this winter, a program is available to help low-income families keep their heat from going to waste. Adirondack Community Action Programs (ACAP) has offered its Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) since 1976, helping to make nearly 60 homes each year more suited for cold weather. According to Barb Allen, who heads the program, the energy crisis places a heavy burden on low-income families, who often spend as much as 25-40 percent of their annual income on shelter and energy bills. This program is there for energy conservation to help tighten up their home, to make it more energy efficient, and hopefully free up some money so they can use it towards other costs like medicine or food, or whatever else is needed, said Allen. Applicants for the program are first given an assessment to determine what needs to be done in the home to make it more energy efficient, safer, and more comfortable. Diagnostic tools such as a blower door are commonly used. The blower door helps us measure how much and where air is leaking from the home, Allen explained. Once the problem areas are identified, ACAP arranges for installation of insulation, maintenance for heating systems, weather stripping, repair of windows, and other minor fixes. The program also allows for the installation of carbon monoxide detectors and, in some cases, the replacement of old refrigerators with newer, more energy-efficient ones. We have in-house crews who perform all the work, Allen said. As mandated by the government agencies that fund the program, bids are taken for materials and services. WAP staff who perform the services must be certified by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and the New York EPA. After the work is done, a post-weatherization inspection is performed to assure that improvements are effective. Allen said Essex County has a particular need for the program and maintains a waiting list for services. The housing stock here is probably one of the oldest in New York State, she said, noting that many of the homes in the area date back to the late 1800s. As a result, lack of insulation is a common problem. Also, many families are unable to afford to keep their heating systems updated or maintained. Right now, it just seems to be even more important than its ever been, said Marge Garcia, ACAPs development coordinator. Income guidelines set by New York State determine qualification for the program. Priority is given to the elderly, people with disabilities, and families with children. Special consideration is also given to rental units, where landlords are usually asked to contribute part of the cost of improvements. My advice would be that its never too late to apply for services, said Allen, but its better to apply sooner rather than later. To apply for ACAPs Weather Assistance Program, contact Barb Allen by calling 873-3207 or e-mail ballen@acapinc.org

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