PLATTSBURGH - As the temperatures fluctuate above and below zero, some may find themselves left out in the cold - or, more to the point, left inside with the cold. That's where the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties comes in.
Belinda J. Parent, director of JCEO's Energy Services Program, said one of the more commonly known programs offered by JCEO is their Weatherization Assistance Program. The program, which is funded through the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal, provides energy conservation measures free of charge to people who rent or own their own home, based on income guidelines.
Once deemed eligible for the program, JCEO will conduct an energy audit of a person's home to find where inefficiencies are and what measures can be taken to correct them. The home's heating system, refrigerator and faucets are among things checked to determine what cost-effectiveness improvements could be made to the home, said Parent. Improvements can then range from replacing doors and windows to smaller projects such as replacing light bulbs, changing light fixtures, and installing low-flow shower heads.
"Everything we do through weatherization has to have an SIR, which is a Savings to Investment Ratio," said Parent. "We have to justify to DHCR that everything we do is going to be energy savings to the consumer."
The amount of time to complete the audit takes about two to three hours in the home. A plan of action is then developed for correcting inefficiencies.
"We basically build your house in our computer," she said. "Once everything's done, we meet with them and tell them where they can save the most energy."
Many tend to think buying all brand-new windows or doors could save a substantial amount of money and decrease drafts, she added. However, other factors may come into play.
"That might not be the case," said Parent. "If they have no insulation in their attic ... they might get more bang for their buck by doing the insulation."
Once the Energy Services report has been reviewed, materials are ordered and crews arrive on-site to perform the work, said Parent. After the work is done, post-inspections are conducted to determine the effectiveness of the improvements.
The program is definitely worth looking into, said Olive Soucia of Churubusco. Soucia went through the application process to have an energy audit conducted and was ultimately able to have the windows and doors in her mobile home replaced.
"It was pretty drafty in here when they did my audit," said Soucia. "If you sat on my couch before, you could feel the wind."
After a little more than two days, all of Soucia's windows were replaced, and the draft was no more. If not for the JCEO Weatherization Assistance Program, Soucia said she'd likely still be sitting in a drafty house.
"I couldn't handle the cost myself; I'm on a fixed income," said Soucia. "So, this was a good deal for me. They did a great job."
While the waiting list for the weatherization program is currently a year to a year-and-a-half, the agency anticipates receiving more funding in April, which may reduce the wait time for applicants, Parent said.
"We encourage, if they're eligible, to get an application and get their name on the waiting list," she said.
JCEO also offers weatherization services for those who don't income qualify, said Parent. The same services are offered at an average cost of about $300, with a shorter waiting list. Rebates through other programs are still potentially available to reduce the cost, said Parent.
For more information about assistance through the JCEO Energy Services Program, contact Parent at 561-6310.