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Weatherization project to have another banner year

Starting today, Mahube's three served counties will see another huge increase in weatherization funds thanks to the federal stimulus program.

Two years ago the program received $324,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy, enabling it to insulate 90 homes.

Last year (a program year runs from July 1- June 30) the program was given $1.5 million, nearly $1.2 million of which came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to insulate 240 homes.

This year, the stimulus plan will add $1.4+ million to the Energy Department's grant, enabling Mahube to weatherize 295 homes in the tri-county region.

Nearly 90 will be in Hubbard County.

"Right now the funding is wonderful but we don't know what the future will hold," Energy Programs Coordinator Nancy Cummings told the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners recently.

Will the agency run out of homes to insulate?

"We have always prioritized with homeowners but we actually could do rentals," Cummings said. "We have a lot of rentals that could really use help and where the landlord really isn't in a position to."

But she said, "A lot of landlords are renting mobile homes. The money really isn't there. If we should run out of homeowners, which it doesn't really look like any time soon, we could actually move into doing some for renters."

Each home gets an energy audit, which includes a look at the furnace and hot water heater for both efficiency and safety.

The majority of the funds are spent sealing air leaks and insulating homes.

If the furnace or hot water heater "is unsafe, of course, we would replace them," Cummings said. "But if they're really inefficient, everything we do must meet a savings to investment ratio, which means it has to pay for itself in savings over its lifetime. If a furnace can meet that requirement, then we would replace it."

Cummings said she had heard back from homeowners grateful for the improvements, which typically save 20 percent of fuel consumption costs. And sealing drafty areas make the homes feel warmer, she said.

"Actually there's about a year and a half left of stimulus money," she said. "I think we will see a pretty dramatic decrease. I hope it will still be a priority but I am quite sure we won't see this kind of funding again. It goes until June 30, 2012 but I don't think the funding will last quite that long."