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North Carolina Nonprofit Helps Spread the Word About Weatherization

September 3, 2010 - 10:00am


On Tuesday night, about 15 people gathered at the Lewisville Library in Winston-Salem, N.C., to hear three energy experts talk about how to tighten homes to save money on utility bills.

Weather stripping, insulation and even planting trees were among the tips discussed. For two hours, people asked questions and took notes, learning as much as they could about how to weatherize their own homes.

"Afterwards, the reaction from everyone was, ‘wow that is a really great amount of information,'" says Terri LeGrand, executive director of Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA), the nonprofit that organized the free gathering.

It's the third out of four planned "Weatherization Makes Sense" workshops to come out Piedmont, and one of two new weatherization projects—the other is an online tool of the same name—that the five-year-old organization has launched recently.

Weatherization eligibility

The nonprofit organized the workshops to not only offer do-it-yourself tips, but also to let residents know about services they may be eligible for.

"The problem is the lack of awareness of such benefits, guidance to complete projects on their own, and no knowledge of the financial assistance available," LeGrand says.

A big part of the presentation focuses on the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

A representative from Regional Consolidated Services - the local human services agency that aids low-income residents with weatherization - speaks to the crowd about the opportunities available under WAP.

Weatherization services are administered by North Carolina's State Energy Office, which received an additional $132 million through WAP. More than 4,000 homes have been weatherized in North Carolina as of June with help from Recovery Act funds.

"We want to show them what's out there for them," she says.

An online tool that makes sense

The guidance doesn't stop at the workshops, though.  The new, comprehensive online tool is packed with weatherization information.

 "We really wanted to bring all the information out there together, so people from anywhere didn't have to go to so many different places," LeGrand explains.

"The information is so overwhelming," she adds.

As the organization points out, if a person Googles "weatherization," about 3 million search results pop up.

The tool was launched this summer, thanks to an intern named Lisa Northrop, a Wake Forest University psychology student who spent 10 weeks digging, organizing, reorganizing and compiling links, tips, phone numbers and every other pertinent resource she could find.
"The main thing I learned in the research is that you can do a lot yourself," says Northrop. "Weatherization doesn't have to cost a lot. And it saves money and the environment."

The website is divided into four main categories to help people navigate through information and get to answers quickly: "Why weatherize;"  "How to weatherize;"  "How to pay for it;" and "Who to call."

PEA put information from a slew of organizations and governmental agencies, including the DOE's Oak Ridge Laboratory, Nature Conservancy and the EPA, all in one place to make it easier for users.

"We realize that there are so many barriers [to find weatherization resources]," LeGrand says, "and we wanted to remove some of the barriers."