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Unemployed Engineer Finds New Career in Weatherization

October 27, 2010 - 10:46am

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Bob Kos worked as a mechanical engineer for 20 years. But a slow economic climate and scarcity of quality jobs had left him unemployed since 2005.In challenging economic times, even experienced professionals can find themselves out of work.

This past April, Kos was able to get back to work when he was hired as an energy auditor for the CAP Agency, a Shakopee-based non-profit that provides weatherization services to income-eligible Minnesota residents.

“It’s nice to be back in a work environment and to be surrounded by a crew that is trying to accomplish something,” says Kos.

From 35 to 150 homes

In the spring of 2009, CAP received $1.5 million via the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to expand its weatherization assistance program.

CAP’s Weatherization Coordinator Pete Haerden says the money allowed the agency to hire four full-time staff members, including Kos. The company has also increased the number of full-time contractors it employs on weatherization projects.

“Prior to receiving the stimulus money, our weatherization team only weatherized an average of 35 homes per year,” says Haerden. “Our new goal is to weatherize 150 homes per year, and we hired more staff to help accomplish this.”

To date, the recovery act money has allowed CAP to weatherize 130 homes in Scott, Carver and Dakota counties.

Big savings

CAP’s weatherization assistance program improves the energy efficiency of homes by making various physical improvements, such as adding insulation, sealing air leaks and replacing inefficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units and furnaces.

Haerden says CAP spends an average of $6,500 per home.

Once the physical improvements are completed, energy auditors like Kos inspect the homes to ensure all the structural improvements meet CAP’s safety standards. Kos and his colleagues also run diagnostic tests to measure homes’ increased energy efficiency.

“The R-Value of the homes we weatherize tends to increase by about 20 to 30 percent, and the furnaces tend to operate more efficiently,” says Haerden.

CAP employees also educate residents about practices they can undertake to reduce their energy consumption and monthly utility bills.

“We talk to residents about how to conserve hot water, and the importance of cleaning under refrigerators and changing furnace filters so those systems run efficiently,” says Kos. “It’s pretty basic stuff, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do these things on a regular basis.”

Haerden says that CAP plans to weatherize 275 homes with the stimulus money alone, and he predicts the program will continue to thrive for years to come.

That is good news to Kos, who is enjoying his new profession and hopes to stay in the field for a long time.

“I’m thankful for this program because it gave me a green job that will be around for a long time.”

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