Weatherization helps low-income households keep warm

From Staff Reports

   For low-income families, winter often means making the difficult choice of paying for heat or spending money on other basic necessities, such as food, clothing, and doctor bills, says Pauletta Sensabaugh, Director for the Upper East Tennessee Housing Development Agency (UETHDA).
   According to Sensabaugh, the average American household pays about 6 percent of its annual income on energy, while low-income households pay as much as 20 percent. During hard winters, some low-income families may be forced to spend over 25 percent of their monthly income just to stay warm.
   Fortunately, says Sensabaugh, there is assistance available for low-income households -- not just money to help pay the bills, but also practical assistance to prevent needlessly high energy bills resulting from poor insulation.
   "Helping someone to reduce their energy bills by helping them to insulate their home is like the old saying about teaching a man to fish instead of just giving him a fish," Sensabaugh said Tuesday during a "Weatherization Day" showcase at a newly insulated home on West G Street. "We could just help people pay their electric bills, but we're trying to go a step further and help people reduce their energy bills so it won't be such a burden."
   Through funding from the National Department of Energy, local offices like the UETHDA have helped millions of people nationwide stay warm over the past 25 years.
   Steve Wandell, owner of Elizabethton Electric, contracts jobs for the UETHDA. He has been doing work for the organization for over 14 years.
   Wandell says that Elizabethton Electric insulated over 200 homes for the UETHDA during the last two years and hopes to be able to do even more this year.
   "When we weatherize a home, we look at the whole house from the top down," Wandell said. "We usually start in the attic, because that's where you lose most of your heat."
   Wandell said that, in addition to insulating the roof and floors, the program paid for a new storm door and eight new storm windows at the G Street showcase home. Wandell said that without the help of UETHDA the project would have cost the homeowner $2000 -- an impossible figure for someone on a fixed income.
   "This house was in dire need of weatherization," said Louis Hughes, an employee for Elizabethton Electric. "But it's in good shape now."
   Sensabaugh says that weatherization can reduce heating costs by as much as 20 percent.
   County Executive Truman Clark and Elizabethton Mayor Sam LaPorte were both on hand Monday to hail in Weatherization Day 2001.
   "UETHDA has been devoted for a long time to helping low-income households," said Clark, a member of the board for the past 19 years. "As long as I can recall, they've done fine work to keep people from having to pay overly-large heat bills."
   For more information about UETHDA's Weatherization Program, call (423) 246-6180.