Best in Class: Georgia’s Weatherization Assistance Program ranks in Top 10

By Guest Columnist KEVIN CLARK, executive director of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, the state’s lead agency for energy programs

Joyce Bozeman’s three-bedroom home, built in 1953 in Atlanta’s Sylvan Hills neighborhood, is still standing strong, a testament to the quality and workmanship often found in older homes.

But she found that her 58-year-old home wasn’t energy efficient enough to keep a comfortable temperature year-round, which is an important factor in maintaining her health.

So in January 2011, her home received a complete energy make-over through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s Weatherization Assistance Program.

Southeast Energy Assistance, one of the program’s 21 service providers, completed the work, including installing insulation in the ceiling, walls and attic and caulking throughout the house; sealing the ductwork, doors and windows; and putting in exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen.

The changes made to Ms. Bozeman’s home are typical of the work done on homes weatherized throughout Georgia, and they make a significant difference in a home’s comfort level and related energy costs.

Kevin Clark

The Weatherization Assistance Program’s mission is to reduce state and national consumption of energy while providing a safe, improved environment and enhanced quality of life for Georgia’s income-eligible households. It was created under Title IV of the Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976.

WAP services are designed to reduce energy costs; improve comfort and indoor air quality; increase financial independence; provide energy efficiency education and; address health and safety concerns.

WAP uses Whole House Weatherization, which treats the house as a single energy-consuming system. The process requires advanced diagnostic skills and cost-effective measure selection and installation.

Homes that have been weatherized require less energy to heat and cool, resulting in lower utility bills and a higher standard of living. Energy-efficiency measures performed through the program include air sealing, wall and ceiling insulation, and heating and cooling system improvements or replacement.

Single-family homes, multi-family buildings and mobile homes are eligible.

Recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of the top 10 programs nationwide (it is currently No. eight) since the addition of $124.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding in 2009, our WAP recently surpassed an important milestone. In July, the 10,000th home was weatherized.

This notable achievement places the WAP ahead of schedule in meeting its 13,681-unit goal by March 31, 2012.

As a result of weatherizing 10,000 homes throughout the state, 305,000 British thermal units in energy have been saved, along with $350 in average first-year savings for each weatherization client, which equates to a 32 percent reduction in energy costs. Weatherization returns $1.67 in energy-related benefits for every dollar invested.

WAP contracts with 19 Community Action Agencies, one local government and one nonprofit organization to provide weatherization services for eligible Georgians in all 159 counties.

Households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for assistance.

GEFA provides oversight of the program, its funding, technical assistance and training for the service providers.

Southface trains WAP employees and contractors, and the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service provides quality assurance monitoring. The training includes a series of basic and advanced/continued learning workshops conducted across Georgia, and incorporates audio/visual materials, product displays and hands-on experience in learning labs and in the field.

“My quality of life and the comfort of my home have definitely improved as a result of the work SEA has done,” said Ms. Bozeman. “Maintaining my health depends on a consistent temperature in my home year round, and I’m grateful to the WAP program for assisting me.”

Thousands of people such as Ms. Bozeman have benefited from the WAP throughout Georgia. And in addition to helping families in need, GEFA, the WAP’s service providers and its many partners, including Southface and the University of Georgia’s Cooperative Extension Service, have much to be proud of in the work done during the past several years to reduce energy consumption and improve the lives of low-income Georgians.

We are committed to ensuring that families seeking weatherization assistance receive timely, quality services. The high-performance of these agencies speaks not only to the agencies’ hard work and commitment, but to the training and support GEFA provides the weatherization network.

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