Ross County Community Action Agency’s weatherization program saves family in more ways than one

When Brooks inherited a small house a few years ago, he knew there was a lot of work that needed to be done. As a single father with handy experience, he was ready to tackle the repairs and make a safe and affordable home for himself and his four children. Little by little, he made changes and updates.

“I did what I could with lower-cost items to try to weatherize the home myself, but I couldn’t afford everything it needed,” Brooks explained. “It took me three or four years to do the things I did to try to reduce my energy consumption—especially in the summer months.”

Brooks’ electric bill typically ran about $150/month during the cooler months but jumped upwards of $500/month in the summer. Because his central air conditioner could not keep up with the heat, he added two window units to try to keep the kids safe and comfortable.

One evening as Brooks was paying his utility bills online, he noticed a link to learn more about an assistance program, which set him on a path to a big savings.

Brooks was directed to Ross County Community Action’s weatherization programs where he learned that income-qualified residents have opportunities to lower utility costs through energy efficiency measures and education. When his application was processed, the agency scheduled an inspection of his home. What he learned next would not only save him a lot energy usage and money, it may have saved his family’s life.

Inspectors found a crack in the furnace heating element, which carried a high risk of leaking fatal levels of carbon monoxide into the home. Because of the inspection, however, Brooks’ family can breathe easily knowing the replacement furnace is not only safe but also energy efficient. The repairs and ultimate savings, however, did not stop there. Ross County Community Action was able to braid multiple funding sources, creating an even greater impact for Brooks’ family.

The home also had no insulation in the walls causing high air leakage and no resistance for heat flow. Brooks explained that during the winter, he would block off doors and sections of the house to try to manage the cold air. “The agency came in and made some changes I would never have known to do,” he shared.

The energy savings for Brooks’ household continued to stack up. The family also received an energy-efficient refrigerator cutting the energy consumption to 1/6th of the 25-year-old refrigerator he had. Having little insulation in the attic and none in the walls, Brooks’ energy consumption is slated to drastically improve and significantly reduce his utility bills making his home safe and affordable. Overall, the energy savings are estimated to add up to over $2000 each year and could be as high as 50% more.

“Three out of my four paychecks each month used to go to utility bills just to keep up,” Brooks said. “This help will definitely loosen up some funds and allow me to better care for my kids.”

In November, Brooks opened his home to the community to allow technical demonstrations of the weatherization process and to share the impact Ross County Community Action had on his family. Before the open house, the furnace was replaced and combined with an energy-efficient central air conditioner eliminating the need for the two window units he was using. Brooks had installed a new water himself though it was not vented to current code. The team at Ross County Community Action properly vented the water heater and added attic ventilation.

Photo of Brooks Q’s furnace before it was replaced by Ross County Community Action.

“I think this is awesome!” Brooks shared when asked how the program could impact others in the community. “It’s hard to get ahead. I would never have been able to do all of this myself and I was really trying.”