When the first cold snap hits each winter, Tony Lindow gets very busy.

He is the weatherization manager at Audubon Area Community Services. The program he oversees helps improve the energy efficiency of homes owned by low-income residents.

"Our mission is to help you reduce your overall utility bills and provide a more comfortable living environment through the process of weatherization," Lindow said.

AACS's weatherization program received more than $591,000 in federal funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

On average, the program provides between $5,000 and $6,000 in energy-efficiency improvements per household, Lindow said. When needed, the program replaces aging refrigerators, water heaters and furnaces. It may install insulation, vapor barriers and programmable thermostats.

Doors and windows may be caulked, but not replaced.

The program provides a health and safety inspection that identifies carbon monoxide hazards, poor indoor air quality, mold and other issues.

There is no cost to low-income homeowners for these services.

After weatherization is complete, Lindow said some homeowners report up to 25% in savings on their utility bills.

The program serves families whose incomes fall at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $51,500 for a family of four.

Low-income households spend more of their incomes on utilities. The federal government estimates low-income homeowners spend more than 16% of their income on energy, as compared to less than 4 percent for other residents.

Even if homeowners meet income eligibility requirements, AACS will not weatherize some residences, Lindow said. For example, crews can't work on houses with leaky roofs, mold, clutter or asbestos.

On average, AACS weatherizes between 60 and 70 regional homes a year, Lindow said.

During winter months, applications increase significantly because cold snaps remind residents of their homes' energy-efficiency problems. At this time, the program has a waiting list, and Lindow expects it to grow after the first of the year.

The program does not serve homeowners on a first-come, first-served basis, Lindow said. Instead, applications are ranked with priority going to low-income residents who are 60 and older, people with disabilities and families with children younger than 6 years of age.

Recently, an elderly applicant who was disabled and living on a very low income applied. That woman jumped ahead of others already on the list, Lindow said.

In the Messenger-Inquirer's readership area, residents of Daviess, Hancock, Ohio and McLean counties are eligible for AACS's weatherization program.

Applicants must provide income for all household members during the past month, Social Security cards for all household members, title to the mobile home or deed to the house, and heating and electric bills for the past 12 months.

For more information about AACS's weatherization program, call Lindow at 270-686-1670.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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