April 20, 2018

Weatherization

Weatherization is a fourteen letter word that strikes fear into the hearts of many Watt Watchers. The Community Weatherization Project is among the biggest and most challenging of all school energy projects. A school group (often a Student Council) goes out into the community and installs energy-saving measures in the homes of elderly or low income residents. Often multiple Student Councils band together to pull off this “Mega Project.” Installing energy saving devices is often called “weatherization” since many of the measures improve the homes’ energy performance in hot or cold weather.

Students must coordinate with several community partners in addition to coordinating between several schools to get the students turned out on a Saturday to do the work. Typically, local home improvement centers or local gas and electric utility companies are asked to donate the materials that the students install in area homes. Contacting the right person within each organization can take time and effort even before the negotiations begin for what materials can be provided.

Locating ten to twenty homes to weatherize can also be a challenge. Obviously, you can’t go door to door asking if each homeowner might be interested. Here again, you will need to coordinate with social service agencies and find the right person within each organization to work with.

Then there is the problem of knowing which energy efficiency measures to install and getting good information on how to install them. If you don’t have a local energy expert or good support from a utility company this can be a sticky problem.

This is a big project. But don’t despair — some good support is now available.

A great publication to read before starting your project is the Christmas In April Energy Efficiency Guidebook prepared by Dr. Lisa Gartland of PositivEnergy for the Rebuild America Program. The guidebook covers 17 different possible weatherization measures from caulking to pipe insulation to furnace tune-ups to ceiling and floor insulation. Of course, it is unlikely that you will be insulating attics or retro-fitting furnaces but you can choose a handful of measures suited to your project, skill levels, and donated materials.

The value of the book is that it explains what each measure is, has a photo of the item, gives approximate cost, assigns a skill level required for installation, explains how much each measure will save, how to install it, and even estimates the length of time needed to perform the work. This is basically everything you need to know about a measure to see if it fits your project. You can now request specific items to be donated by the home improvement centers and be much less dependent upon local experts.