- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2000

The Department of Energy (DOE) reports that low-income families spend an average of 14 percent of their yearly income to heat and cool their homes. Until reform hits the utilities industry, you pretty much can't shop around for a better price on energy. The only thing you can do is cut back use or use energy-saving measures around the house, such as adding insulation, sealing windows and caulking around doors.
To help reduce the burden of these costs, DOE has developed the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). WAP reduces heating and cooling costs for low-income families particularly the elderly, persons with disabilities and children. The program has provided weatherization for more than 5 million homes since its inception in 1976.
WAP works simply. States receive DOE grants and then award that money to local agencies, usually community action agencies or other nonprofit or governmental organizations, to perform the actual weatherization services.
The process is simple as well. After an application has been submitted, a professional team conducts a computerized energy audit using advanced diagnostic equipment to identify energy-saving measures that are cost-effective or essential for health and safety. Then a crew comes in to weatherize the dwelling.
The energy-saving measures may include installing insulation and ventilation fans, heating and cooling tune-ups and modifications and replacement of heating/ cooling units for energy efficiency and safety.
An education program instructs occupants about the proper use and maintenance of installed weatherization measures. These services are available for single-family homes, multifamily dwellings and mobile homes whether the client owns or rents the structure. DOE reports that the energy-cost savings per household often runs between 25 percent and 30 percent.
The funding for the WAP outreach is a mixture of government and private monies. Federal funds come from DOE's appropriation and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) block grant. The remainder of the funds come from utility companies, states and other sources.
To qualify, applicants must fit into the following profile: Any household at or below the higher of the federal poverty level or 60 percent of the state median income qualifies.
The DOE Web site provides information on eligibility for the program:
"Whether you own or rent, live in a single-family home, multifamily housing complex or a mobile home, you can apply for assistance. If you rent, you must get written permission from your landlord before weatherization services can be performed. Preference is given to persons over 60, persons with disabilities, and, in some cases, children. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), you are automatically eligible. You may also be eligible for assistance if your income falls within the federally established income guidelines."
The financial guidelines are based on size of family and income range.
For more information, click on the DOE's Web site for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network or contact the participating energy or housing office in your area. Unfortunately, the program details are well hidden on the Web site, so here's the unabridged link to the program: http://www.eren.doe.gov/ buildings/ weatherization_assistance/.
District of Columbia: District of Columbia Energy Office, 2000 14th St. NW, Suite 300E, Washington, D.C. 20009. Phone: 202/673-6700. E-mail: ca4248@aol.com
Maryland: Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, 100 Community Place, Crownsville, Md. 21032-2023. Phone:410/514-7244.
Virginia: Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, 501 N. Second St., Richmond, Va. 23219-1321. Phone: 804/371-7128. E-mail: lweston@dhcd.state.va.us
If you're looking for more information on making your home more energy efficient, check these resources:
The National Association of Community Service Programs (NASCSP) (www.waptac.org): This site provides information on how to administer WAP, a reference library for state-of-the-art energy technologies, and contact with WAP offices throughout the country. The group's address is 444 North Capitol St. NW, Suite 221, Washington, D.C. 20001. Phone: 202/624-5866. E-mail: mspoon@sso.org.
Affordable Comfort Inc. (www.affordablecomfort.org): A not-for-profit educational service organization that promotes energy and resource efficiency, comfort, health, safety, affordability and durability in buildings, focusing on buildings in which people live and the people who live in them.
The Utility Connection (www.utilityconnection.com): Provides links to electric, gas, water and waste-water utilities along with utility associations, organizations, news, magazines and related state and federal regulatory and information sites.
The Energy Efficient Building Association Inc. (www.eeba.org): An international nonprofit group dedicated to fostering energy-efficient design and construction and environmentally responsible development practices that provide quality living environments.
M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 11 years. Direct comments to 8411 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax, Va. 22031; or by e-mail to macarr@nvar.com.

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