By Kitt Urdang and the CEC
More and more people are catching onto the Charlotte Energy Committee’s (CEC) Weatherization Project, which is in full swing right now, helping residents FEEL more comfortable, SAVE money, and HELP the environment.
By sealing up their homes for winter, households can save an average of 15% on heating bills, increase their indoor comfort, minimize home repairs, improve air quality, reduce emissions, and build community resiliency. That’s a lot!
Weatherizing a home, which involves sealing and insulating to trap hot or cold air inside, is a powerful way to “outsmart winter,” although it keeps indoor spaces cooler and more comfortable in the summer as well. In a region with such long and harsh winters, weatherization is an essential step for responsible energy users and budgeters.
The benefits of weatherization are numerous — according to the Department of Energy, weatherization creates more livable homes with health benefits for those who reside there. For example, Americans miss fewer days of work due to illness and pay less out-of-pocket medical expenses after their home is weatherized. In addition, given that Vermont does not produce nor hold reserves of fossil fuels, all petroleum, natural gas, and coal consumed in the state is imported. Therefore, reducing home energy use through weatherization sends less money outside of the state and promotes the state’s energy independence and resilience.
The CEC’s Weatherization Project helps Charlotters reap these immense benefits, especially those who might not otherwise be able to afford needed upgrades to their homes. The Project encourages residents to take as-needed materials such as plastic window insulation, rubber window seals, door sweeps, threshold rubber seals, pipe insulation, outlet and light switch cover gaskets, foam, caulk, and low-flow showerheads.
The CEC is able to offer such extensive weatherization support thanks to a grant from the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Climate Catalyst Innovation Fund. The grant money has been used to hire town resident Marissa Green, who has run the project last winter and this fall.
Marissa coordinates with residents to make sure they get weatherizing materials the CEC has purchased, as well as support from the State of Vermont for DIY weatherizing. Email Marissa at firstname.lastname@example.org to acquire materials or to get general information about weatherization. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most impactful strategies for improving efficiency is having one’s furnace cleaned.
Plus, any Vermonter can get a free virtual energy consultation through Button Up Vermont, and Vermonters whose incomes are below a certain amount (varying based on county and household size) can qualify for weatherization services that make about $10,000 worth of improvements per home through adding insulation, reducing drafts, and more. This program is possible because the Vermont Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott committed $40 million of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to home weatherization for low and moderate-income families.
Despite the influx of funds there are still barriers to Vermonters’ ability to weatherize. There is a large gap between the demand for weatherization services and the number of workers currently certified to do weatherization work. The Energy Action Network (EAN) estimates that the weatherization workforce needs to grow five-fold in the next five years to meet state climate goals.
According to an Efficiency Vermont report from January 2022, the Vermont Legislature’s 2021 working group on the weatherization workforce found that barriers to workforce growth include: the state’s focus on a four-year college path; worker shortages; wage competition; funding uncertainty; and affordable housing shortage. Meanwhile, solutions include: weatherization workforce training and certification; marketing the trades as a strong future path; reaching out to immigrant populations; increasing transparency around wages; creating workforce housing; and sustaining demand for weatherization through lasting incentives. The report finds that the workforce will grow and weatherization can continue as planned when the state works on all of these goals at the same time.
While Charlotters work on the long-term goal of promoting weatherization through statewide energy incentives and affordable housing, they can get to work immediately on DIY solutions with the help of the Charlotte Weatherization Project.