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Help in N.J. for Those Struggling with Energy Costs

April 2, 2010 - 2:27pm


In Newark, N.J., times are still tough for some residents. Among the rows of worn brick architecture, though, there are signs of hope, thanks to a local community action agency’s weatherization assistance program and an extra boost in funding from the Recovery Act.

The stories of homes in need of retrofitting in Newark are like those in many cities across America. Sammie Rutledge worked as a carpenter since he was a teenager but stopped working in 2004 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Faced without a paycheck from a full-time job and with high energy bills, as much as $600 each month, Sammie was distraught. Then, a friend heard about the weatherization program at La Casa de Don Pedro and recommended it to Sammie.

“I knew I needed the boiler in my house replaced, but I said, ‘I can’t pay nobody for anything,’” he says. “The heat would come on every 10 minutes before, but now it feels good in there and my bill is down to about $100 a month.”

Lizette Perez echoes Sammie’s story. She’s raising 2-year-old and 17-year-old daughters on a fixed income. She’s another Newark homeowner who found her energy bills skyrocketing this past winter.

“I have a two-floor condo, and the first floor was always cold, but now it’s evened out — this has been so beneficial for me and my children,” she says. “I didn’t know that simple things like insulation could make such a big difference, and now I can keep the thermostat 10 degrees lower and still be comfortable, even during the coldest weather.”

Another helpful aspect of weatherization for Lizette was that the crew caught a safety hazard she didn’t even know existed – bare wiring on her old refrigerator.

“I had chewed-up wires pretty badly, and I’m so glad they pulled out my refrigerator to check it because now it’s much safer for my children,” she says.

Sammie and Lizette have seen the benefits first-hand that come with making our homes more energy-efficient. Weatherization allows Americans everywhere to reduce their energy use, save money and live more comfortably at the same time.