Living with a disability is not easy – it’s hard on household maintenance and on the pocketbook. So when Tina Thalley is offered assistance, she isn’t shy about accepting it, especially if the changes will make her more comfortable or lower her living expenses. Tina was in a car accident in 2000, causing an injury that led to the amputation of her right leg. Living with a prosthetic, Tina gets around easily and can take care of herself as well as her 12-year-old grandson. But certain tasks, like making changes to her home’s heating and cooling systems, aren’t physically realistic. Living on Social Security, they’re not financially feasible, either.
Yet, when Tina moved into her home a couple of years ago, she discovered a need for some upgrades. “The windows in this house were really bad. We used a lot of energy. I couldn’t keep up with the bills,” she says. Her energy bills reached into the $300-plus cost range last year. Tina has learned how to stretch her limited resources and is accustomed to coming up with creative solutions. In the past, she tried her own weatherization measures – such as putting up weather stripping and covering the windows in plastic. “But I can’t reach very high and I didn’t put it up the right way,” she said. She had also placed rugs in front of the doors, sealed off rooms she wasn’t using, and bundled up with blankets to keep warm in winter. In summer, Tina kept everything closed, avoiding turning on the air conditioner and instead using fans to keep cooling costs down.
When Mile High Youth Corps came to Tina’s home to install high-efficiency water fixtures, including a new toilet and showerheads, the youth corps reminded her about Energy Resource Center (ERC)’s free weatherization services. ERC would be able to help reduce her energy bills with more efficient systems. ERC staff made several improvements, including caulking the windows; installing insulation in the crawlspace, attic and walls; mounting smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; and rerouting the bathroom ventilation. These changes were badly needed, and Tina knows they will help reduce the home’s energy consumption as well as make her safer and more comfortable.
Energy Resource Center offers free home improvement services to low- to moderate-income households. The services make homes more efficient, healthy, comfortable and safe, and reduce utility bills by an average of 20 percent. The Colorado Energy Office and Xcel Energy fund the work. Partners are Mile High Youth Corps and the Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships. Post written by Rae Tamblyn, in collaboration with ERC.