Case Study: Weatherization Plus Health

Ms. Jones applied for energy assistance through the Opportunity Council (OC). During the eligibility appointment, staff asked whether anyone in the household had asthma, allergies, or other respiratory issues.  Jones responded that both she and her daughter had been diagnosed with asthma.  After staff explained the OC’s Weatherization Plus Health program to her, Jones expressed interest in both the weatherization program for help in lowering her energy bills and a Healthy Home visit to see if there were things to do at her house that might help with her family’s asthma. She completed the application for the Healthy Home visit during her energy assistance appointment and scheduled a visit with the OC’s in-home educator, who is trained in conservation education and healthy home environmental assessment. The initial education/assessment visit identified a number of concerns and opportunities to improve the indoor environment: high humidity, possible mold staining the bathroom, a leaky roof, incomplete ground cover, old carpet in the bedrooms and living room, and evidence of mice and pesticides in the kitchen and pantry areas. The OC educator worked with the OC’s weatherization/home repair project coordinator and the homeowner to complete the improvements.  The OC used home repair funding to repair the roof; weatherization funding upgraded the ventilation in the bathroom, completed the ground cover, made standard insulation improvements over the bedrooms, and performed combustion safety testing of a low efficiency heating system. Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers funding allowed for an efficiency upgrade to the heating system.  The crew completed pest exclusion (holes plugged by copper wool embedded in foam) at the same time as air sealing in the crawlspace. The OC’s privately funded healthy home program changed out the old carpet in two rooms to hard-surfaced, easily cleanable flooring and also provided a HEPA vacuum for the new area rugs.  The healthy homes funding paid for a green cleaning kit that uses nontoxic cleaning products, walk-off mats at the entryways to minimize dust coming into the house, and dust mite mattress and pillow covers. The educator gave Jones a digital humidity gauge to monitor the humidity levels in the house, and she learned the benefit of opening the windows when the humidity rises above 60 percent in the winter. She also learned the importance of exhausting moisture out of the house and agreed to use her bathroom fan for at least 40 minutes after every shower. This partnership of funding sources and programs worked. Jones anticipates lower energy bills, and she and her daughter feel good about the improvements made to their home. From what we know, our work together has also reduced conditions known to aggravate asthma symptoms.