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Weatherizing Entire OH Town? It Takes a Village

Weatherize Nelsonville aims to weatherize 300 homes by the end of 2016. Credit: Marcy Dixon/ COAD
Weatherize Nelsonville aims to weatherize 300 homes by the end of 2016. Credit: Marcy Dixon/ COAD
October 7, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - While it takes a team to build a village, it also takes a team to make that village energy efficient. In southeast Ohio, city leaders, community organizations, utilities and residents are working together to "Weatherize Nelsonville."

Many homes in the region are anywhere from 70 to 100 years old, said Tom Calhoun, the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development's assistant director for community development.

"They're highly energy inefficient," he said. "They oftentimes need new furnaces. They need attic and wall insulation. They're pretty leaky, so they need a lot of air sealing work. Sometimes, they need a variety of repairs - it's just an old housing stock."

Through programs made available by American Electric Power and Columbia Gas, renters, homeowners and business owners can get weatherization services for free or at a fraction of the regular cost, depending on income eligibility. The goal is to weatherize 300 homes by the end of next year.

Calhoun said the project has been an easy sell, since the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development does much of the legwork and Hocking Athens Perry Community Action performs weatherization services. He said saving energy is just one of the perks.

"We can reduce our carbon footprint, we create jobs in the local communities by doing this work and we keep money in the community," he said. "We help the folks take the money they save on their fuel bills and they generally spend it locally."

In the past four decades, Calhoun said, about 100,000 homes in the region have been weatherized - and there are about 300,000 more to go. He said he believes Weatherize Nelsonville and a similar project in 2012 in Murray City are helping to accelerate the process.

"We're saying to the community, 'If you folks come together and you have the backup of your local utility, maybe we can get this done quicker than 100 years,' " he said. "I'd like to think that we would be on a 10- or 15-year plan."

An open house demonstration at a house being weatherized in Nelsonville will be held Friday. Calhoun said leaders from other Ohio communities can learn more about how to get their own weatherization projects off the ground.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH