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Weatherization: Home Safety Issues and Reducing Your Energy Bill

Posted on Thursday, December 15th, 2016 by Mila Adamovica

We recently learned about a nationwide program instituted by the U.S. Department of Energy that promotes the use of clean and sustainable energy through weatherization funding. It’s the Weatherization Assistance Program. This came to our attention when a couple of new customers approached us from community action groups that specifically carry out weatherization services. These customers purchased gas detectors for their organizations so we looked into it a bit to find out more and how they are helping their communities. We worked with the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program, and B.C.M.W. Community Services. They found us after being advised to purchase RKI Instruments four gas monitors that would bring them into OSHA compliance for their services and qualify them for their state’s funds. One of our Corporate Account Experts worked with them to help choose the right solution for gas detection in their projects, and recommended the GX-2009 4-Gas Monitor from RKI Instruments.

RKI GX-2009 4-Gas Monitor 72-0314RK

What’s Involved In Weatherization?

In order for a residence or building to be properly weatherized, it will need to undergo an audit. During the home audit, several elements in the home are checked and assessed for energy use in every room and to pinpoint problem areas. These include appliances and home electronics, insulation and air sealing, lighting and daylighting, space heating and cooling, water heating and windows, doors and skylights. Services and upgrades may include:

  • Home audit and assessment of energy efficiency needs
  • Checking insulation, windows, doors, basements and attics for leaks to the outside
  • Testing heating systems and appliances for combustion safety
  • Testing for carbon monoxide and gas leaks
  • Monitoring for possible moisture damage or mold infestations
  • Checking electrical panels and wiring for safety
  • Replacing and/or providing tune-ups for unsafe heating and cooling systems
  • Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Installing solar energy systems

Some upgrades that are often needed in a weatherization retrofit are: insulating walls, attics, water heaters and pipes, sealing doors, basements and crawl spaces, applying weather stripping and caulk or replacing doors, windows, walls and roofing, installing new HVAC and ducting, and even adding solar energy panels. Confined spaces, like attics and crawl spaces, may be poorly ventilated and, as a result, contain insufficient oxygen or hazardous levels of toxic gases.

Why Are Gas Monitors Needed for Weatherization Projects?

Contractors and service providers encounter a wide variety of health and safety risks when entering a home to accomplish weatherization audits and services. In order to qualify for federal and state funding through the Weatherization Assistance Program, the organizations that carry out these projects need to ensure they are OSHA-compliant. OSHA requires gas monitoring of confined spaces before entering them in order to prevent serious injury or death. In 2015 the definition of a confined space was expanded to include attics and crawl spaces. Most commonly, there are cases where a worker could be exposed to hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, combustible gases or a combination that would poison them or leave them with a lack of oxygen. RKI Instruments is a very dependable and respected brand of gas detection equipment. It makes sense that the OSHA representative recommended these instruments to the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program for their gas detection needs. PK Safety carries many RKI Instruments gas detectors and is happy to help you find the right gas detection solution for your projects.

What Are The Benefits of Weatherization?

Weatherization improvements in buildings and residences can make a positive environmental impact through clean energy use and reduced need for energy consumption. Through the program, organizations are working with qualifying low-income residents who normally wouldn’t be able to make this type of change, and also help them with a reduction in energy bills. In addition, the safety of the residents is often improved with better air quality in the home from newer, retrofitted insulation and filtration systems.

Improved insulation, windows, and sealing leaks around doors and wall joints can keep heat out of your home in the summer and in during the winter. These simple changes can really reduce energy use through the seasons. Depending on your climate, you will have different needs for levels of insulation, moisture control and ventilation. Insulation provides resistance to heat flow, and the more heat flow resistance provided in your insulation, the lower the heating and cooling costs and the more comfortable it will be. Not only is weatherization good for your energy bill, it can help with safety issues caused by aging appliances, insulation, and HVAC systems.

More About The Weatherization Assistance Program and Services

Instituted by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Weatherization Assistance Program will fund qualifying community organizations like these, to help local low income residents to reduce energy bills and improve health and safety. The U.S. Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs Office coordinates with local and state leaders to accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency improvement best practices and technologies. These partnerships help American communities overcome barriers to clean and efficient energy use.

The state governments and local agencies usually work to leverage this Energy Department funding with other federal, state, utility and private resources to increase the amount of homes that can be weatherized. The local agencies and organizations work to provide weatherization assessments and services to those who may be in need of solutions or improved technologies for home energy upgrades.

The U.S. Department of Energy developed the Home Energy Score system to build market value for home energy efficiency with nationwide household recognition. In order to score a home, a builder or contractor will use the “house-as-a-system” approach for evaluation. A home is audited and receives a score that reflects its energy efficiency based on the structure, heating, cooling, and hot water systems. This approach ensures that the team of building professionals consider all the variables, details and interactions that affect energy use in the home. In addition to this, they evaluate the occupant behavior, site conditions, and climate.

Who is eligible for Weatherization Assistance?

Weatherization Assistance resources are available in every state through the U.S. Department of Energy. More than 30 million U.S. families may be eligible for weatherization services nationwide. Energy services are provided by the states’ local weatherization agencies, and each state has slightly different eligibility requirements. If you receive Supplemental Security Income, you are automatically eligible to receive weatherization services. Not only owner-occupied households are eligible, but renters who meet the criteria are eligible if the landlord accepts the terms of the weatherization contract.

DOE guidelines mandate that states must give priority eligibility to the elderly, persons with disabilities, families with children, and families with high energy burden or high energy use. Each state sets how these priority factors will be applied. One of the primary factors affecting eligibility is income. Depending on what state you live in, you are eligible for weatherization if your income falls below the “200% poverty level” (as defined in http://waptac.org/data/files/website_docs/government/guidance/2013/wpn-13-3.pdf).

Options for assessing and completing energy efficiency through weatherization are available through your state and local government’s Weatherization Assistance Program, and likely through your local energy providers home efficiency programs. Check your local government and power company website for more information. Thank you to organizations like B.C.M.W. Community Services or the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program for providing service options and promoting clean energy use.

This post was originally published in A CONSUMER RESOURCE FOR HOME ENERGY SAVINGS, December 14, 2016.

If you need the expert advice about the best gas detection devices, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800-829-9580, or visit us online at www.pksafety.com, and follow us @PKSafetydotcom.