BPA’s Amy Burke explains weatherization and how BPA supports it in the region.
With extreme weather events on the rise in the Northwest, the need for weatherization for public health and safety reasons is becoming increasingly evident.BPA’s Amy Burke, Energy Efficiency Weatherization program manager
In celebration of National Weatherization Day, BPA’s Amy Burke, Energy Efficiency Weatherization program manager, explains weatherization, its importance and how BPA promotes it in the region.
What is weatherization?
Weatherization refers to home improvements that control and intentionally direct how heated and cooled air flows within your home. By controlling this airflow, we can improve the comfort and safety of our homes, reduce our energy bills and make sure our heating and cooling systems operate as efficiently as possible.
Attic insulation is one of the most cost-effective weatherization measures. During winter, it helps ensure the heat from your furnace or your heat pump stays within your living area and does not escape through gaps in your windows, doors or other spaces. By controlling airflow and the temperature in your house, attic insulation also prolongs the life of your heating and cooling equipment because it does not have to work as hard to keep your home comfortable.
Other weatherization measures include installing efficient storm windows, upgrading exterior windows and doors; and improving ventilation and air sealing, which is repairing air leaks throughout your home. Residents can independently make some of these improvements, such as air sealing, while others may require the services of a professional.
What are the benefits of weatherization?
Weatherization can lower electric bills and positively impact health and safety inside homes.
One story has always stuck with me. There was a family in Washington whose young daughter was asthmatic. For years, she frequented the emergency room due to her regular asthma attacks. Finally, during an audit of the family’s house, they uncovered significant mold growth due to improper insulation, ventilation and air leakage. The family replaced the insulation, sealed the air leaks and had their home properly ventilated. Soon after, they found that these changes not only lowered their energy bills, but decreased their daughter’s asthma attacks, leading to significantly lower healthcare costs and stress on the family. When I hear stories like that, it reinforces why we do what we do. We aren’t just helping people financially; we are quite literally supporting their health. The fact that weatherization also increases energy conservation is an added bonus!
With extreme weather events on the rise in the Northwest, the need for weatherization for public health and safety reasons is becoming increasingly evident. When summer temperatures soar to 115 degrees – like they did during the 2021 heat dome – weatherized homes will be noticeably more comfortable and better protected than those without weatherization, even those without air conditioning. As wildfires increase in the region, they will find that weatherization upgrades, such as adding door sweeps and replacing windows and exterior doors, can help to mitigate the insidious wildfire smoke that can enter homes downwind.
What is BPA doing to support residential weatherization?
BPA’s Energy Efficiency program offers incentives for weatherization improvements via two pathways: utility programs and a Low-Income Energy Efficiency Grant program. First, BPA offers its utility customers the option of providing BPA-funded weatherization incentives directly to their end-use customers. Homeowners, property owners and renters in participating utilities’ service areas can take advantage of these incentives through their utility regardless of the household’s income level. To support these efforts, BPA developed the Comfort Ready Home program to offer excellent (and free) resources to help utilities, contractors and homeowners understand and access these offerings in the region. Within this funding pathway, BPA also offers a Low-Income Energy Efficiency program. This program provides higher incentives to income-qualifying households, as well as extra financial support for repairs that may be required prior to weatherization upgrades.
The second funding pathway, BPA’s Low-Income Energy Efficiency Grant program, is a joint effort with Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington state agencies as well as federally recognized tribes to provide grant funding for qualifying homes. The tribes and state agencies also offer higher incentives for qualifying households to help create more equitable access to weatherization, particularly for homes with more vulnerable residents such as senior citizens, those with significant health issues, or others who may not be able to take on the upfront costs of home improvement projects.
Where can I find out more?
If you are interested in learning more about the work BPA is doing, go to BPA’s Energy Efficiency Weatherization and Low-Income program web pages. To find out about the incentives and support that may be available to you as an end-use customer, we encourage you to reach out to your local electric utility.
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