CENTERVILLE — The old saying goes that old newspapers are just good for wrapping fish. Nowadays, they’re good enough to help keep one cool in the summer and warm in the winter via shredded newspaper insulation.
Gladys Dawson of Sylvia Avenue is getting a 10-inch thick layer of the insulation in her attic, thanks to the weatherization program of the Middle Georgia Community Action Agency. The program is funded by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, popularly known as President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.
Work began earlier this week on her home, one she’s been living in since 1969.
“I raised my six daughters here,” Dawson said. “But whenever we would have a lot of the family together at the house, it seemed as if the air conditioner wasn’t working at all.”
Her 97-year-old mother lives with her, and through the Meals on Wheels program Dawson found a pamphlet about the weatherization program earlier this year.
“All through the year, I wondered why my heating bills are so high in the winter and the light bills so high in the summer,” Dawson said. “I said, ‘this is for me.’ ’’
She contacted the agency and applied for the program, and within weeks was visited by agency staff members.
First off, they tested her home for places where outside air could leak in through window frames, doors, air conditioning ducts or floors, said Jim Evans, a weatherization inspector with the agency.
“I was surprised at what they found,” said Dawson. Her home, which she said she remembers being moved onto the lot when she was just a teenager, was drafty.
A couple of days ago, agency workers began weatherizing her home. The work should be completed either Monday or Tuesday, said Kristen Mayhew, weatherization coordinator for the agency. Workers, using “green building,” or environmentally friendly products, are sealing door and window frames with caulk, putting insulation in the attic, and sealing floor corners and air conditioning ducts.
“I can feel a difference already,” said Dawson. “It’s much cooler inside now. I’m looking forward to saving on my next light bill.”
Mayhew said it takes three to four days to weatherize a house or mobile home, usually at a cost of around $6,000.
The agency serves 12 counties in the midstate region: Bibb, Butts, Crawford, Houston, Jones, Lamar, Monroe, Peach, Pike, Spalding, Twiggs and Upson.
Looking at the larger picture is Jennette Gayer, advocate for Environment Georgia, a citizen-funded research and policy center headquartered in Atlanta.
“This is a great example of green building,” Gayer said on the front porch of the Dawson home. “Forty percent of our energy goes toward heating and cooling buildings, and work like this can make a huge dent in that.”
Gayer said investing in energy efficiency, from the home level on up, could save residents about $542 billion by 2031.
Those who qualify for the weatherization program are low income, disabled or senior citizens, said Mayhew. Income levels are $21,000 for a single person or a combined income of $29,000 for a couple, she said.
But what can others do to lower their utility bills and stay cool this summer? It’s really deceptively simple, Gayer said.
“First, change your light bulbs,” she said, and use energy efficient fluorescent bulbs that use far less power than regular incandescent bulbs. “And if you’re feeling adventurous, seal around your air conditioning ducts.”
Home building contractors are getting wise about making homes energy efficient, she added.
Dawson said she would recommend that those who qualify apply for weatherization.
“Like myself, I know that many people have high light bills and don’t know why,” she said. “Getting this done will be a blessing for my mother, my family and guests who visit me.”
To contact writer Jake Jacobs, call 923-6199, extension 305.