ACHRNEWS

Weatherization Program Is More Than Just Caulk

May 17, 2002
EAST LANSING, MI — When the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) first started its Weatherization Assistance Program, which is administered by the individual states, it consisted of “lots of caulk and not much else,” said Duane Griffus. He was speaking at the “Energy: It’s Not All You Save” conference here.

Today, the program is much more than that.

Inaugurated in 1976 to help low-income families save money on their energy bills, the program is funded by the DOE. In Michigan, it is administered by the Michigan Family Independence Agency. Griffus is Capital Area Community Services weatherization director.

The goals of the program, he said, are:

  • To assure the health and safety of the client;

  • To reduce energy consumption; and

  • To improve the comfort level of the client.

    Initially, when homes were weatherized and tightened up, the possible impact on health was not considered. Now, noted Griffus, this is an important concern.

    Current weatherization measures consist of a lengthy list of items. First is a complete furnace and water heater inspection. “The most frequent problem found in inspections is gas leaks,” he said. If required, minor furnace and/or water heater work will be done.

    If necessary, the furnace or water heater will be replaced. This is where hvacr contractors would be involved in the process.

    Smoke detectors will be installed in the home. A clothes dryer vent will be installed if one is needed. Other health and safety issues will be checked as needed.

    PRIORITY MEASURES

    Once these items have been completed, priority measures, in order of importance, are as follows:

  • Close up major bypasses. This includes replacing broken glass and sealing obvious holes.

  • Perform duct sealing/repair/ replacement.

  • Add duct insulation.

  • Add attic insulation.

  • Install setback thermostat (if the family can use it).

  • Add kneewall insulation.

  • Add exterior wall insulation.

  • Check infiltration/exfiltration. This would entail caulking and weatherstripping.

  • Add bandjoist/sillbox insulation.

  • Add floor insulation.

  • Add perimeter insulation. (The last two items would be used for insulating homes with crawlspaces or unheated basements.)

    Hvacr contractors, again, would be involved in some of these measures.

    Whether or not the state goes through the entire list depends on the amount of funding received each year, said Griffus. Right now the funding level is good. “A blower door test is done now on every home we weatherize,” he related, to determine where the leakage is.

    An infrared camera is used to spot check selected homes. It identifies exterior heat loss and is a quality control tool.

    What are the results of this program? A study done in 1996 found that “For every dollar spent, the program returned $1.80 in energy savings and an additional $0.60 in employment and environmental benefits.”

    Griffus added, “The amount of energy used for heating a typical home was reduced by one-third.” Also, the additional measures being taken were shown to have a significant effect. Energy savings had increased by 80% since the previous study done in 1989.

    PROGRAM DETAILS

    Both homeowners and renters may qualify for the program. If a family’s home was weatherized before Sept. 30, 1993, they may be eligible to have it reweatherized.

    To sign up, the family must contact their local weatherization program operator.

    The complete weatherization process, said Griffus, entails these seven steps:

    1. Client applies for the program.

    2. Weatherization director approves.

    3. Home is pre-inspected.

    4. Furnace and water heater are checked.

    5. Estimate and workorder are completed.

    6. Job is assigned to a contractor(s).

    7. Home is post-inspected.

    If there are any problems with the work, they will then be resolved.

    Publication date: 05/20/2002