Warmth for the holidays
SILVER SPRINGS – It’s a temperate 60 degrees in Marilyn Bass’ home on Antelope Street. She’s wearing a short-sleeved shirt, but about five weeks ago, the 71-year-old was swaddled in blankets.
Bass has a shiny new Coleman furnace in her double-wide trailer, thanks to the Nevada Housing Division’s Weatherization Program. The program saves energy, lowers energy costs, and increases comfort for low-income families and individuals, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said.
This year, the Energy Department awarded Nevada about $835,000 to weatherize homes. The program gives a priority to households with elderly members, people with disabilities and children.
Bass lives with Elmo, an 11-year old Pomeranian mix, who was curled up beneath her chair, and her son, Ken Barnes. She said she moved to Silver Springs about 14 years ago to escape the rat race of San Jose, Calif.
Low-income families spend an average of 14 percent of their income on energy, compared with 3.5 percent for the average American, according to DOE. Weatherization reduces an average home’s energy costs by $218 a year.
Bass, a retired waitress and cook, said she isn’t sure how much she will save her on utility bills, but she’s grateful. Bass sat in her sky-blue living room beside an artificial Christmas tree decked out in red bows. She’s proud to say that on Thanksgiving Day, they put the turkey in the oven and put up the tree almost in the same breath.
“Our heater broke in the summer, but you just don’t think about the heat when you have it turned off,” Bass said.
Her son heard about an assistance program while at work at the Nevada Legacy Corp. He called the organization and was referred to the weatherization program.
“Right away, they came and got right on the ball,” Bass said while contractor Larry Davis applied weatherproofing foil tape to an air-supply vent in the floor. “And we haven’t had to pay any money.”
A new furnace wasn’t the only upgrade for her three-bedroom home.
Weatherization Program manager Craig Davis said clients without heat or air conditioning are a priority. Before installing the unit and sealing up the home, the contractor ensures that no hazardous fumes are leaking in.
Larry Davis, superintendent at Advance Installations Inc., demonstrated by taking a carbon monoxide reading from Bass’ Magic Chef gas stove. He held the tip of a long cylinder, attached to a black box, up to a lit burner.
The reading was 4 parts per million, which is well below the danger level of 100 ppm. When the contractor first looked at Bass’ stove, he noticed she didn’t have a range hood. The contractor installed one to suck the gas and smoke outside.
Last year, 1,527 homes were weatherized in Nevada at an average cost of about $2,650 each. Craig Davis ( no relation to Larry Davis) said most clients are referred from the energy-assistance program administered by the welfare division.
“I don’t know who else will do what we do,” he said. “The hardest thing about our program is we’d like to have additional housing rehabilitation funds to enhance this program.”
The program doesn’t cover the cost of things such as enhancements for the disabled or roof, plumbing or electrical repairs.
Craig Davis said about 70 percent of the program’s funds go to Clark County, 16 percent to Washoe and 14 percent to the rural areas. It’s more costly to service the rural areas because of the time and expense for contractors to drive there.
Larry Davis has worked as a contractor with the weatherization program for 14 years. He said the gratifying nature of the work keeps him coming back.
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at email@example.com or 881-1212.
Low-income Weatherization Assistance
What is it? The program assists low-income people in reducing their utility bills by providing for energy-conservation measures.
How is it funded? It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Energy with small contributions from the division’s Low Income Housing Trust Fund and the Energy Assistance Conservation fund enacted in 2001.
Who is eligible? Households with an annual gross income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. For example: a one-person household can have an annual income not more than $13,965; a two-person household not more than $18,735; a three-person household not more than $23,505.
How much money for weatherization is available? A client who can get assistance from the Universal Energy Charge and the DOE is eligible for up to $6,000. If eligible for one source, he or she can have up to $4,000.
Where can I get an application? In Carson City, contact the Housing Division Northern Nevada Office at Evergreen Plaza, 1802 N. Carson St., Suite 154 at 687-4258 or 1-800-227-4960; go to http://www.nvhousing.state.nv.us.