National Weatherization Day

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Oct. 30 marks National Weatherization Day, a day focusing local, state, and national attention of the Weatherization Assistance Program and the work being performed by dedicated members of the weatherization assistance network.

In honor of this national day, we spoke to a long-time partner of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Larry Swanson, executive director at ACTION-Housing, Inc., to learn about the program in Western Pennsylvania, and how the work impacts the lives of those they serve.

“During the last 44 years, the Department of Community and Economic Development has weatherized more than 542,000 homes and attended to over 144,300 heating crisis emergencies.”

What does the Weatherization Assistance Program do, and who are your beneficiaries?

The Pennsylvania Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) works to reduce energy costs and increase comfort in homes by increasing energy efficiency, all while protecting the health and safety of families. We operate the WAP throughout Allegheny, Washington, and Greene counties. Our beneficiaries are tenants and homeowners with low incomes that are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Once identified as an eligible recipient, we perform audits of the homes, identifying measures that will help reduce air exchanges inside the residence. From there, we employ subcontractors who go into the homes with the end goal of reducing the amount of air that needs to be heated or cooled. This could entail caulking and repairing openings or installing insulation in attics and walls.

During the colder months (November to April), we also administer the LIHEAP Crisis Program, which allows us to intervene when low-income homeowners who have dangerous heat situations or no heat at all. We are able to restore heat and ensure it is operating safely and efficiently.

How does the WAP improve recipients’ quality of life?

First of all, the program enables us to reduce energy costs for our clients. Through our work, the average savings per home is 18 to 20 percent, which is substantial for those living on a minimal income. We are also able to identify and eliminate dangerous health and safety issues in their homes, whether it is monitoring carbon monoxide levels or treating lead contamination. Weatherization improvements also increase the comfort of a home by maintaining the average temperature.

Lastly, we develop relationships with our clients. Whenever we can, we offer other resources that they can access to solve problems in their homes, beyond weatherization repairs.

Since the WAP’s inception, what progress have you seen?

ACTION-Housing started implementing this program 35 years ago. What began with inspection audits has evolved into truly life-changing work. Since its inception, we have fixed an estimated 41,000 homes. WAP allows us to alleviate the burden of utility bills for our clients, and we continue to eradicate many unsafe living conditions. Naturally, this kind of work gives birth to compelling stories.

Take Ms. L. Cook from Monroeville, for example. Ms. Cook is a senior citizen living off of Social Security. She owns her own home, and one year she unfortunately lost heating in the dead of winter. We were able to conduct a full weatherization audit on Ms. Cook’s home, which resulted in weather stripping, insulating pipes, sealing ducts, caulking around windows, insulating the attic and garage, and installing foam installation. During that same time, we were able to help restore the heat in her home; however, we did notice she had also lost usage of the hot water tank. Since this was no longer a weatherization issue, we were able to find additional funding outside of our program and fix her hot water tank, creating a comfortable and safe living environment for Ms. Cook.

“There were many days when I was sitting and thinking about how I was going to pay for these improvements,” said Ms. Cook. “But my son encouraged me to apply for the weatherization program, and there is no way in the world that I would have been able to make these changes to my home without it. They transformed it for the better.”
Looking ahead, what is your vision for the future?

Ms. Cook’s story is just one example – my hope is that we can continue to link our weatherization work to that of other organizations so we can bring holistic changes to those who need it most. At ACTION-Housing, our mission is to provide decent and affordable housing to improve quality of life, and the WAP allows us to do just that.

Visit our website to learn more about the Weatherization Assistance Program. To find out if you qualify for assistance, connect with one of our weatherization partner agencies serving your county.

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