Minnesota celebrates 40 years of Weatherization Assistance Program

Minnesota celebrates 40 years of Weatherization Assistance Program
October 27, 2016 | Energy

Energy efficiency improvements help low-income Minnesotans lower utility bills while staying safe and warm in winter

For Immediate Release:
SAINT PAUL – Oct. 30 is Weatherization Day in Minnesota and across the nation. This year represents the 40th anniversary of the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which offers home energy efficiency improvements for low-income households.

“Since 1976, weatherization assistance has been a lifeline helping many financially vulnerable Minnesotans reduce their home energy costs,” said Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Many Minnesotans, especially seniors, struggle with high energy bills because they live in older housing with poor insulation, ancient heating systems and inefficient appliances. Weatherization assistance saves money by conserving energy, while also helping Minnesotans stay safe and warm in their homes in winter.”

Funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, the Weatherization Assistance Program serves households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines or 50 percent of state median income ($48,600 for a family of four). Priority is given to households with elderly or disabled family members, children or high energy consumption.

In Minnesota, the program is administered by the Commerce Department in cooperation with a network of 24 local service providers. Minnesota’s program has served about 30,000 low-income households in the past seven years.

Weatherization services can include energy audits to evaluate potential weatherization work; air sealing; insulation; and repair or replacement of furnaces, boilers and water heaters.

Save energy, save money
“Weatherization Day is an opportunity to showcase our services,” said Cindy Webster, director of the Energy Conservation Program for Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. “In some cases, where furnace upgrades are combined with insulation, air leak sealing and new efficient appliances, a 30 percent reduction in energy bills can be achieved. Our weatherization work has a long-term impact in that it reduces energy use for years to come.”

Webster’s agency has provided more than 15,000 households with weatherization over nearly 40 years.

For example, an elderly St. Paul couple had an aging furnace with a cracked heat exchanger, which also poses a health risk because of potentially dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Two years ago, their home received air sealing, insulation and a new high-efficiency furnace. They also received a new refrigerator, water heater, bathroom exhaust fan and dryer venting.

The result: Their annual natural gas costs decreased by 28 percent and electricity costs decreased by 23 percent.

“We have been so warm in the winter, and the house has been so nice and cool in the summer that we did not have to turn on the air conditioning until mid-July,” said the grateful homeowner. “I didn’t have money to do all the work that was needed…. The CAP agency really saved my whole house. There’s no way I could pay back what was done for me.”

Apply for weatherization and energy assistance
Low-income Minnesotans can apply for weatherization assistance through a combined application with the state’s Energy Assistance Program (which helps homeowners and renters pay for heating bills).

To obtain an application and locate the weatherization assistance service provider in your area, visit the Minnesota Commerce Department website or contact the department’s Energy Information Center at energy.info@state.mn.us or 800-657-3710.

Applicants will need to complete the application and send it to the service provider in their area. For those who qualify and are selected to receive help, an energy audit may be conducted to identify their specific weatherization needs.

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us
http://mn.gov/commerce/media/news/index.jsp?id=17-261523