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RurAL CAP weatherization program helps low to moderate-income Alaskans

By Rhonda McBride 10:18 AM December 18, 2013

Nonprofit repairs and replaces aging and inefficient furnaces, adds insulation and makes a host of other improvements

ANCHORAGE - No, RurAL CAP doesn’t do windows: However, the nonprofit does tackle a whole lot more when it weatherizes a home.

Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Inc.(RurAL CAP) repairs and replaces aging and inefficient furnaces, adds insulation and makes a host of other improvements, depending on the needs of the homeowner.

John Liebsack, a field support and customer service manager for RurAL CAP, believes homeowners save about 30 percent on their energy bills after the work is done.

“With older homes, especially those built in the 1980s, people save more,” Liebsack said. “Those are the worst case offenders.”

RurAL CAP also weatherizes mobile homes and rentals if the applicants qualify.

The Alaska State Legislature created the weatherization program in 2009 to help Alaskans in the low to moderate-income bracket. RurAL CAP receives the funding through the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, as well as money from the Federal Department of Energy.

The guidelines are more generous than most people realize, Liebsack said.

“For example, a single person can make up to $60,000 a year and still be eligible for weatherization services. This is 100 percent free,” he said.

Theresa Dayton is one of those surprised to find out she qualified. She is a widow who lost her husband when his plane crashed in a military exercise.

“With the loss of my spouse’s income, I’ve dropped to about 20 percent of what my income was prior to his death,” Dayton said. “Trying to maintain the home has been very difficult. So things like RurAL CAP are really incredible.”

Mike Dalzell, who worked with the weatherization crew on Dayton’s South Anchorage home, helped install a vapor barrier in a crawl space to prevent moisture from circulating through her house and causing mold.

“If you have a cold floor, you’re going to have a cold room above,” Dalzell said. “You also want quality air. You don’t want stale air running into the house.”

The RurAL CAP workers, who are all mostly local hires, also insulated Dayton’s attic and garage.

The average expenditure per home is about $11,000 according to RurAL CAP.

Dayton sees the weatherization program as a win-win for the Anchorage economy.  She said she’s glad to see the jobs it creates and the help it brings people on a budget.

RurAL CAP weatherizes close to 500 homes a year Anchorage, 100 in Juneau and less than 250 in a few selected communities in rural Alaska.

When the program first began, there was a two to three year waiting list. Now it’s down to about 30 days, with seniors, people with disabilities and families with young children getting top priority, Liebsack said.

For those who earn too much to qualify, there’s also AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate program. For more information about RurAL CAP’s weatherization programs click here.

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