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It’s time to think about heating efficiency now

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By The Staff

Normally, mid-summer is not the time many of us think about weatherizing our homes, even if cooler temperatures in recent days have felt more like early fall.

If making our homes more energy efficient and saving money weren’t enough, there are 70 million more reasons why Kentuckians should start thinking about taking on energy-saving projects.  That is the amount of money Kentucky could receive for this program from the federal stimulus package that Congress approved in February to help local and state economies.

This money will help us weatherize up to 9,000 qualified homes in the next three years, with each one eligible for up to $6,500 in energy conservation services based on the findings of an energy audit.

Community Action Kentucky, which works with 23 community action agencies to cover all 120 counties, will administer the program.  Local weatherization providers will both assess homes and then oversee the work, which ranges from adding insulation and sealing leaky ductwork to repairing or replacing inefficient heating systems.  Health and safety measures like smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can be included as well.

To qualify, homeowners need to have a household income less than $44,100 for a family of four; for a family of five, it is $51,580.

Other guidelines will help determine who has first priority.  Families who have children six and younger or whose children may be at risk of being removed because of substandard living conditions would get higher priority, as would families with elderly or disabled members and those with high fuel costs. Renters are generally not included, though there are some exceptions.

Federal statistics show that weatherized homes may save families nearly a third on their energy bills.  Another study indicates that every $1 invested in weatherization saves $2.73 in energy and non-energy related costs, and for every $1 million invested, 75 jobs are created.

This weatherization effort complements the work the Community Action network does each winter for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which has also received a significant boost.  Last fall, Governor Beshear announced that Kentucky would be getting $68 million for LIHEAP, more than double what we normally receive from the federal government for those at-risk.

The governor said this would help an additional 115,000 families and provide higher benefits in the face of rising heating costs and increased unemployment numbers.  In all, Kentucky’s Community Action agencies were able to serve nearly 290,000 families last heating season, benefiting nearly 600,000 people.

My legislative colleagues and I are working with Community Action Kentucky to encourage more people to participate in the weatherization program and to be more aware of LIHEAP when cold temperatures do arrive.  If you think you might be eligible, or if you would like to learn more, you can contact Community Action Kentucky, toll free, at 1-800-456-3452 or by visiting its website at www.kaca.org

Representative Rick Rand