Stimulus dollars help weatherize homesWeatherization projects funded by stimulus dollars help rural Superior woman stay in her home
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Barbara Larson of rural Superior wants to stay in the home she’s lived in for nearly four decades.
Diagnosed with ALS, the cost of heating her small house on her social security income is the biggest threat to her desire.
Things could be different this year with help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Larson is getting a makeover to weatherize the home she’s lived in since 1970. Hers is just one of the homes in the six-county region served by the weatherization program operated by the Ashland County Housing Authority that could benefit. The agency has an office at 502 22nd Ave. E., in Superior, and serves a six-county area that includes Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas, Iron, Price and Vilas counties in northern Wisconsin.
Denise Lutz, director of the housing authority, estimates the agency will be able to provide energy-saving makeovers to 500 homes through the federal stimulus package.
A typical project, which can cost between $500 and $10,000, can save the homeowner between 25 and 40 percent on their energy costs.
That’s a good rate of return, Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, said.
Based on heating costs last year, Larson could reduce her propane consumption by anywhere from 275 to 440 gallons.
Last year, Barbara Larson spent about $4,000 for the 1,100 gallons of propane needed to heat the small house; she would keep the heat turned down so low people would shiver because she simply couldn’t afford the high cost of heating the uninsulated house, her daughter-in-law Jenny Larson said. At times, she said, Barbara Larson would have nothing more than a kerosene heater in her living room because she could afford the few dollars for that fuel when she couldn’t afford to buy propane.
During a “blow test” at Larson’s home today, Energy Auditor Bob Bennett said they were able to determine how much air was circulating in and out of the home – it would be the equivalent of having 4,896 balls coming in one window and going out the other every minute.
“That’s basically a good, windy day,” Bennett said.
“It’ll help people to save a lot of money on their heating bills,” said U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, who was touring the district Monday to see what impact the federal stimulus package is having on northern Wisconsin. “It’ll save us a lot of money that we’re shoveling abroad to oil-producing countries, and it helps to improve labor conditions.”
As the author of the stimulus package, the house appropriations committee chairman, Obey said it is money well spent.
“I can think of a lot of ways that taxpayers’ money is spent that are not nearly as rewarding as this,” Obey said.
He said the weatherization program helps homeowners conserve energy, ensuring that fuel assistance is money well spent.
“We can help people stay in their homes,” Obey said.
She thanked the congressman for the assistance that will allow her to continue to live at home.
While the program normally has a two-year waiting list before projects are funded, Lutz said, work on Larson’s home started Monday. She applied for the program last winter.
It’s going to make a difference, Jenny Larson said.
For more information about the program, call (715) 392-1686 or (800) 274-8311.