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Rockefeller inspects weatherization work

March 20, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- More than 70,000 homes have been weatherized in West Virginia, and Dave Babcock thinks a lot more should be.

He should know. Since the beginning of winter, Babcock, 51, of 528 W. Martin St. in Martinsburg, has saved more than 30 percent on his heating and electric bills and has stayed considerably warmer thanks to a federal government weatherization program that will pump $70 million into West Virginia this year.

The money comes through the federal stimulus package, said U.S. Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who toured Babcock's house Friday.

Robert Wagner, coordinator of the Eastern West Virginia Community Action Agency's Weatherization Assistance Program, said about $4,000 was spent on Babcock's home.

"I thought that weatherization meant a little sealing and caulking," Rockefeller said. "It's a lot more sophisticated."

The work in Babcock's house included replacing a faulty gas furnace, sealing ductwork and leaks, wrapping the water heater, weatherstripping, caulking and replacing conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights.

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"This will be a real growth industry," Rockefeller said. "It's helping guys like Dave here to save money. It's useful work. It will bring 125 jobs to West Virginia and it's going to help grow the green economy."

Wagner showed Rockefeller several high-tech diagnostic devices his team uses to determine energy efficiency.

Wagner described a fanlike contraption that seals itself into a window and blows inside air outside. Once the space is depressurized, it's easy to find cold air leaks.

"It exaggerates the leaks," he said,

Thermal imaging infrared cameras show how much insulation, or lack of it, there is in a building.

Another monitoring device tells if the heating system ductwork leaks. It's more efficient and saves workers from crawling into attics, cellars and crawl spaces.

One monitor shows how much electricity a refrigerator uses. That device can mean a real savings for qualified homeowners. Allegheny Energy will replace inefficient appliances at no cost, Wagner said.

Wagner said his agency works with local contractors, heating, electrical and plumbing companies.

Workforce West Virginia trains members of Wagner's team, which has grown to eight employees. His agency has rented warehouse and work space in the former General Motors plant in Martinsburg in preparation for the added work and staffing the new stimulus money will bring to the eight-county region covered by the program.

Thus far, 328 homes, apartments and mobile homes have been weatherized through the program, now in its 13th year, through the program. Included are 92 units in Berkeley County, 45 in Jefferson County and 24 in Morgan County, Wagner said.

For information on income guidelines or to apply for the free weatherization program, call 304-538-7711 or go to 1-800-484-7363.

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