Aquila weatherizes Sedalia homes

October 9, 2007

Tom Nelson hopes the foam sprayed into the cracks of his home’s foundation and a tighter seal on his backdoor would help stave off high utility bills like the ones he battled last winter.

Aquila employees and volunteers from the Sedalia Rotary Club weatherized six Sedalia homes Tuesday, including Nelson’s at 621 E. 10th St.

Nelson’s highest electric and gas bill last winter was $435. He said paying those bills was tough.

“By the time I paid that and my insurance, it gets thin,” Nelson, 78, said.

This winter’s energy costs are projected to be even higher than last year. Households heated with natural gas are expected to pay 10 percent more this winter, and those heated primarily with electricity are estimated to rise by 4 percent, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Aquila’s efforts in Sedalia were part of a statewide program to help those unable to weatherize their own homes and to raise awareness for others who can do it on their own.

Lower demand from homeowners means lower cost to operate utilities, and in turn, lower bills for customers, said Aquila spokesman Bob McKeon.

“Energy efficiency and conservation helps everyone in general,” he said.

The Department of Family Services recommended the homes for weatherization in Sedalia. Most of the occupants are elderly and unable to do the work themselves, said Bryan Bergeson, Aquila network operations supervisor in Sedalia.

Aquila workers previously assessed the homes to decide what energy conservation measures applied. Those measures included weatherstripping, caulking, covering windows in plastic, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, wrapping the water heater with a water heater blanket, insulating the pipe atop the water heater and installing faucet aerators.

Crew members also changed batteries in smoke detectors as part of National Fire Prevention Week.

Lane Bennett, an Aquila supervisor, used pressurized expanding foam to fill deep cracks in the foundation of Nelson’s house.

“We need to try to keep that cold from getting under the floor,” he said. “Keeping that cold air out can really make a difference.”

Bergeson worked to get a tighter seal on Nelson’s backdoor, by using weatherstripping and readjusting its alignment.

Workers also changed the most commonly used 60 watt light bulbs in Nelson’s home to 15 watt compact fluorescent lamps. The lamps use up to 75 percent less energy, last up to 10 times longer and result in a $30 savings in energy costs over their lifetime.

Nelson tries to take other measures to keep his heating costs low. He closes off the two front rooms he doesn’t use.

“I turn the thermometer down and put on more clothes,” Nelson said.

Rotary members Ben Embree, Mike Haynes and Cindy Barnett volunteered to help with the weatherization. Embree said the club’s motto is “service above self.”

“This fits with what we do,” he said.

This is the second year Aquila has organized weatherization crews. Last year, they did two homes in Sedalia and 15 statewide. The goal this year is to weatherize 100 in Missouri.