Big stimulus money to insulate local homes

Mike Johnson reporting -
Source: Channel 12 News Station
Date: 04-01-2009

If you want to cut your energy bills, the federal government is offering a bundle of money to help. Through tax cuts and help for low-income homeowners, local contractors are gearing up for what they hope will be plenty of work.

"They had a lot of areas where heat was easily just flowing out of this house," says Arne Olson of Houle Insulation outside a home his crew is working on. Olson says he sees it often in homes built before the 1970s.

"When we work on a lot of the older homes, there is not much insulation in there, or if there is, some of it may not have been installed properly," said Olson.

But those problems are more likely to get fixed with new income tax credits for homeowners of up to $1,500. For low-income homeowners, part of the stimulus package means many more will be able to get the job done for free.

"I think we're definitely going to be busy over the next couple of years here," said Olson. "I think it's going to be a great improvement for our type of business."

It's the kind of improvement in a home that can keep paying off with a 20 to 30 percent reduction in energy bills. For low-income homeowners, the federal dollars will be a boost. The Sustainable Resources Center distributes money for low-income weatherization projects in suburban Hennepin County.

Dan Newman, director at Sustainable Resources Center, says the stimulus dollars will allow the center to weatherize at least five times more homes in a year.

"This is really huge," said Newman. "We're going to be able to go from about 200 homes per year on weatherization to about 1,100 homes annually. We expect that to continue for about a year and a half so we're real excited about it."

In all, Minnesota will get $131 million to insulate homes for low-income residents. That means doing energy audits, updating heating systems and adding insulation.

Right now everybody is getting ready for a busy summer.

"We have to gear up. We have to have assessors. We have to find qualified contracts," said Newman. "Weatherization is not a simple thing to do. There's an art to working in old houses."

You can find out where to apply and how to qualify by going to

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