Times Bulletin Staff Reports

As the mercury plummets this winter, heating bills typically skyrocket. However, the Van Wert County Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) is in place to ease the financial burden for low-income families.

The program is a two-way street with both the HWAP and the consumer doing its part. The weatherization program will address the heating system and mechanical equipment and reduce energy loss through the outside of the house. Meanwhile, the consumer will be responsible for maintaining the materials installed in their home and for following energy saving practices. Families that have received weatherization save an average of 35 percent on their home energy bills, which can be a big difference-maker for a monthly budget.

Since the program began in 1976, more than 6.4 million homes have been weatherized across the nation -- 84 of those in the Van Wert area. In addition to making homes safer and more comfortable, this program is good for the environment and the economy.

Some of the work that may be performed includes a heating system and/or water heater safety inspection, and sealing and insulating the house, including the walls, attic, and crawl space. Attention may also be directed to dirt crawl space floors, ductwork, bathroom and kitchen vents, dryer vents, and doors.

The HWAP technicians use diagnostic technologies such as a blower door and energy audit to determine the most cost-effective measures for each home. Health and safety issues are also reviewed and determined, but since funding is limited in this area, landlords of rental units must contribute half of the total cost of any health or safety issues required.

Eligibility for the program is at 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, which means that the household income of a family of four may not exceed $44,100. To find out if you qualify, contact the Van Wert County HWAP at (419) 238-4544.