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Onalaska home shows benefits of weatherization program

May 8, 2010
In The News

ONALASKA — Retiree Darrel Burkhardt was about to replace his aging furnace last winter when a friend told him he should see whether he qualified for weatherization assistance from Couleecap.

A few months later, Darrel and wife, Judith, have a new furnace, new water heater, replacement light bulbs and lots of new insulation.

The final bill for Couleecap was $7,800, but it didn’t cost the couple a dime. The money came from the $4.6 million awarded from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

An additional $3.6 million awarded to the agency this week will mean many more homes will be weatherproofed like the Burkhardts’, said Couleecap Executive Director Grace Jones.

But U.S. Rep. Ron Kind said that’s not enough, which is why he voted in favor of the Home Star energy bill that passed the House on Thursday and now awaits approval by the Senate. That bill will continue the flow of funds for weatherization.

“This program really makes a lot of sense,” Kind said, because it saves on energy usage, saves people money on their energy bills and puts people back to work. “To me, it’s a win-win-win.”

When an additional eight positions are filled thanks to the new stimulus funding, Couleecap will have 20.5 positions added within the past year for doing weatherization work and will be on course to complete about 1,000 home weatherizations in the area.

“This is the best work I’ve ever done in my life,” said Josh Wiegand, Couleecap building assessment manager.

Burkhardt said he was surprised he qualified for the program but is glad he made that call.

“They just came and did the work and I watched,” he said.

And then he watched his gas and electric bills shrink. He said he was shocked by the difference between his March utility bill of about $150 and the more than $400 spent in the same month in 2009. And that was before all the extra insulation was added to the house, Burkhardt said, so he expects to see more savings next winter.