"We have felt an impact because of weatherization," says Mark Barr, a third-generation owner of 70-year-old family window manufacturing business Harry G. Barr Company, located in Fort Smith, Ark.
The Arkansas weatherization assistance program received an additional $48 million to through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This has allowed local service providers to increase the number of homes serviced and tripled the number of contractors.
And that has positively impacted the local economy and the Barr's window company. With the bump up in business, Barr is able to bump up employees to 40-hour workweeks, as opposed to the shorter workweeks Harry G. Barr Company had prior to the Recovery Act.
Weatherization agencies are new customers for window maker
Most of the homes that Arkansas community action agencies, such as the Crawford-Sebastian Community Development Council (C-SCDC), work on have inefficient aluminum windows. Barr's company has been called upon to supply vinyl windows that are twice as energy efficient to the local weatherization services agencies to install at income-eligible homes. Barr's vinyl windows have almost half the U-value of most of the aluminum windows they're replacing — the U-value is the measure of the rate of heat loss or gain through a window. The lower the U-value, the better a window's insulating power is. ENERGY STAR recommends windows in Arkansas have a U-value of .35 or lower, a standard many of Barr's windows meet or exceed.
"When the Recovery Act money started coming to agencies in our area, we began seeing a lot of need for energy-efficient windows here locally. Word [on us] got from C-SCDC to other agencies in the state because the work we did went really smoothly," Barr says. "So it's been beneficial and filled some gaps in production."
Barr sees the community action agencies as a new market for his business to add to traditional market segments such as home builders or homeowners looking for replacement windows.
"We're serving a client base outside what our normal replacement window dealers work with," he says. "Typically, the people receiving weatherization assistance wouldn't be able to afford these home improvements. And the program— through the agencies — helps people save on energy costs and helps us by adding that customer base."
Because Barr's company is within a few hours of most agencies in the state, it can respond quickly to agencies' needs for high-efficiency windows, he says.
"It's helped us, and the agencies we've worked with do a good job of using our quality products to help out the people in our area who really need it," Barr says. "The weatherization business has been a key component in keeping the plant running full-time."