Fighting the Big Chill

Record-breaking low temperatures in Virginia have made staying warm particularly difficult for vulnerable populations such as elderly, disabled, and low-income individuals.  Unfortunately, these households often have to cut back on other necessities such as food or medicine to pay their heating bills.  Frigid weather also means that residents may compromise their safety to keep warm.

Just recently, CHP’s weatherization crew encountered just such a situation when weatherizing the home of an octogenarian couple living in the New River Valley.  The Walker’s one-story house was being heated with a wood stove fueled by heavy loads of wood and surrounded by stacks of papers and books that couldn’t be moved by the disabled homeowners. The homeowners also generated supplemental heat with alarmingly old space heaters dating back to the 1950s.

“It’s unfortunate, but we see similar situations every day,” said CHP Vice President of Energy Solutions Bill Beachy.  “Folks are trying to make it through the winter with outdated heating sources that are extremely inefficient and potentially hazardous.  They’re also spending practically every dime on heat that’s literally going right out window because of air leaks that haven’t been fixed.  The good news is that by weatherizing a home, we can significantly lower a resident’s monthly utility bills by making the home more energy efficient and improve the home's comfort and safety.”

To help improve the Walker’s living conditions, CHP insulated their home’s exterior walls, water tank, and pipes; laid a vapor barrier in the crawl space; addressed some minor electrical problems ;and installed carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.  Crew members also provided the couple with a new oil space heater (and oil storage tank) to replace their Eisenhower-era heaters.  According to CHP Vice President of Energy Solutions Bill Beachy, “The new space heater is not only safer and more efficient and effective than the wood stove, but it is much less physically demanding to operate.  The Walkers were very grateful for our assistance this winter and we, of course, were happy to help.  They are exactly why we do the work we do."