Whether to Weatherize? PCRI says Yes!

February 1, 2010 · by pcriadmin · PCRI

Partnering with Multnomah County’s Weatherization Assistance Program, PCRI is working to make our homes warmer, more comfortable and more efficient places to live.

The Weatherization Assistance Program is nothing new–it was created in 1976.  But the weatherization spotlight shines brighter than ever, thanks to President Barack Obama.  In an interview last year with CBS’ Katie Couric he said this about weatherization programs:

“We’re going to weatherize homes, that immediately puts people back to work and we’re going to train people who are out of work, including young people, to do the weatherization. As a consequence of weatherization, our energy bills go down and we reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Lower energy bills?  Decent paying jobs?  Hey, PCRI is all for that too (which is why we’re also a partner in the Department of Labor’s Pathways out of Poverty program)!  In January, Multnomah County’s weatherization inspectors audited the first two PCRI homes, with more on tap for the coming months.  But what does “weatherization” mean?

The first–and probably least interesting–step in the weatherization process is the application.  It’s short, and PCRI residents can pick them up and drop them off at our office.  We can also help with completing them and we’ll submit them to the county.  Multnomah County’s weatherization staff reviews the applications, then schedules an in-home energy to determine what improvements give the most bang for the buck.

With the paperwork (well, some of it at least) out of the way, the more exciting stuff begins.  An energy audit typically starts with a blower door test (pictured above)–simply, an industrial fan mounted in the home’s front door.  The fan creates suction inside the house, making it amazingly easy to see where air leaks are.  Curtains on leaky windows blow around like the window is open, unlatched doors swing open in the blink of an eye and other leaky spots create a obvious breeze.

Besides finding leaks and drafts with the blower door test, the insulation is inspected.  Sometimes this is done with a heat-sensing infared camera (very cool); other times it’s done the old-fashioned way–by crawling in the attic and fighting cobwebs in the crawl space for a first-hand look.  Bathroom and kitchen vent fans are checked too, since it’s even more important to exhaust moist air when the house has been weatherized.

After the crawling around is complete and the blower door kit is put away, the weatherization inspector takes measurements and makes a drawing of the house.  Back at county HQ, this information is used to create an energy-use model of the house.  While the inspector may already have a good idea of what improvements are required, the energy-use software puts the savings into hard numbers.

Heat-sensing cameras and computer modeling software won’t keep the house warm, though.  That’s the job of the insulation and weatherization crew.  Check back in a few weeks for Part Two of this story.  As our first homes advance to Part Two of the program, we’ll have more photos and a virtual tour of the process.

Are you a PCRI resident who is interested in having your home weatherized?  Call or stop by our office and we’ll help out!

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