COLUMBIA — A new facility opened in Columbia on Thursday that could help make houses more energy efficient.
The Columbia Center for Energy Efficiency and Weatherization, 610 Vandiver Drive, is run by Central Missouri Community Action. The center was funded by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources with funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. Productivity and funding for weatherization has greatly increased over the last year because of President Barack Obama's plan to weatherize 1 million homes.
Central Missouri Community Action's weatherization program is aimed at helping families that earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
The number of people per household affects the maximum income a family can have to be eligible for the services:
- 1 person in household; $21,660 maximum income
- 2; $29,140
- 3; $36,620
- 4; $44,100
- 5; $51,580
- 6; $59,060
If you are eligible for weatherization services, you can apply by going to the Boone County office, 400 Wilkes Blvd., or calling 443-8731.
Energy Conservation Coordinator Randy Cole said the new facility will increase the efficiency of weatherizing homes in eight Missouri counties: Audrain, Callaway, Cooper, Moniteau, Boone, Cole, Howard and Osage. Through this program, Columbia received $3.6 million to weatherize homes in addition to the $350,000 of base funding Columbia had in 2008.
"I think a lot of states are in the same situation as Missouri, but with the new facility I think we're ahead of the game," Cole said.
Central Missouri Community Action and its contractors are able to provide up to $6,500 in services and improvements per house, but typically $2,000 is spent, Cole said. He said the extra money will allow them to weatherize 800 homes over the next two years. Weatherizing homes can reduce energy use by about 30 percent, Chief Auditor Inspector David Gregory said.
Gregory said that last year they renovated about 12 homes a month; now, because of the national push, it's closer to 40 a month.
A goal of Central Missouri Community Action is to provide permanent solutions to reduce the energy burden on low-income families by installing cost and energy efficient materials into the home.
The center hosted an open house on Thursday, inviting the public to view the facility and observe displays on how homes are inspected and improved.
"We're trying to get it out to the public that we're here," Gregory said.
Gregory's job is to test for air-leakage, look for broken glass and examine combustion appliances. He uses hi-tech equipment, such as a blower door, to find exactly where a house is leaking and what needs to be done to fix it.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a blower door consists of a fan mounted in the frame of an exterior door. The fan pulls air out of the house, which lowers the air pressure inside. Then, the higher outside air pressure flows into the house through any cracks and openings, allowing auditors like Gregory to detect leaks.
Ralph Walker, a 30-year veteran of the Central Missouri Community Action program, has been a carpenter for most of his life and enjoys working outside of an office.
"Usually we're working on a house that is over 50 years old," Walker said. "We look for places that lose hot air or gain cold air, like a draft. We seal them up and insulate the perimeter."
Walker said the contractors typically use caulk, glazing for windows, weather strips, sash locks or pipe insulation.
The center has six certified contractors that are able to work on houses. Two to three houses can typically be done in a week, Walker said.