EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

October 14, 2009

Federal funds provide big boost to NH weatherization program

Federal funds mean program will expand

With the weather turning colder, Rockingham County's weatherization program is entering its busiest time of the year.

Fall is typically when Rockingham Community Action gets the most calls about its weatherization program, but it has been working on homes throughout the summer and will continue through the winter, said Andy Gray, the program's director.

"As the weather changes, we get more inquiries," Gray said. "But we are busy year-round. We don't have an offseason."

The program has weatherized 34 homes so far this year, and has 70 more in some phase of the process, Gray said.

With a considerably more robust budget, the state's weatherization program is looking to fix up as many as 4,000 homes over the next three years. In 2008, 674 homes were weatherized.

The state program received approximately $24 million in federal stimulus money to be used over the next three years. The grant makes for a huge increase in the program's budget, which is traditionally about $2 million. The program oversees six regional Community Action programs — including Rockingham Community Action — that accept applications for weatherization and have weatherizing experts on staff.

The weatherization process starts with a check for air leaks. Auditors place a large fan in the doorway of the home, and search the walls, floors and ceilings for drafts, which are plugged. Then the home is checked to see if additional insulation should be installed. Occasionally, new windows are also installed, Gray said.

State studies show weatherizing a home can cut heating expenses by 20 to 30 percent.

Program officials submitted a plan to the federal government that set a goal of weatherizing 2,600 homes in the state over the next three years, but they aim to do much more work than that, according to Nancy Gamble, director of the state's program.

"The formal state plan calls for 2,600 homes to be weatherized (in the next three years), but we are shooting for higher than that," Gamble said. "Somewhere between 3,000 to 4,000 homes."

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