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Wallowa County looks to weatherization as key to surviving winter cold, costs

Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on October 31, 2017 2:51PM

The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts another snowy winter with periods of warm weather and that could mean a repeat of some of the issues Wallowa County residents faced last year.

Residents are advised to keep a trickle of water running in sinks at all times during freezing weather. Most cities will cut residents a break on water usage during winter months to compensate. As winter approaches, look for an “overage forgiveness notification” in your water bill.

City residents are also advised to take warnings seriously as cities will be limiting their unofficial “public works charity” of digging up frozen lines.

“I imagine we’ll still help actual little old ladies, but the guy who just repeatedly ignores advice and then expects us to do the work for free ... there’s going to have to be consequences,” said Public Works Director Travis Goebel of Wallowa.

Failing to wrap pipes under the house may not only be a costly mistake, but can cause days of suffering as plumbers and other tradesmen are already booked weeks and months out. The case may be the same for fuel delivery, so plan to fill tanks soon.

Many folks burn wood for supplemental heat but wood isn’t free, so careful calculation is required to insure best value. Local prices for wood range $185 to $225 per cord. Looking into a more efficient wood stove may be worth the investment.

According to Energy Star, using an energy efficient wood stove for heating can save 10 to 40 percent of annual heating costs of an electric, fuel oil or gas furnace. There is also a state tax credit for 2017 of $150 and $400 for the purchase of an energy efficient stove, according to Brent Neely of The Stove Store in Wallowa.

Residents are cautioned to keep an eye out for ice dams again this coming winter. Dams form when warm weather and heat from inside the house begin a thaw roof snow. Once the water reaches the eaves, however, the water cools it and it refreezes, creating a dam.

Melt also fills the gutters and then freezes at night and tears the gutter off, water hits the ice dam at the edge of the roof and backs up under shingles where it swells as it freezes and creates leaks. A sheet of ice under new snow on the roof just hangs on instead of sliding off –– adding weight. If you have beautiful icicles hanging down, you’ve got an ice dam.

Last year insurance companies in Wallowa County recorded dozens of building collapses due to excess snow and ice weight.

Ice dam rakes will be available at Enterprise Ace Hardware, Wallowa County Grain Growers and on order for same week delivery at Joseph Hardware. Renters should be sure to inform landlords if they see evidence of ice dams forming on their roofs.

Complaints about electricity costs last year rose to a county-wide wail last year.

It may also be time to think of installing a heat pump, smart thermostat, solar panels and other energy saving applications. All of those can qualify for refunds through Energy Trust of Oregon.

If you’re preparing for winter on a small budget, remember that weatherization efforts are always the first line of defense — and can create significant savings. Installing storm windows and door seals –– or even door “snakes” of other cloth along the bottom of the door help. Add individual thermometers in rooms to judge the warmth for better zone heating management and return to the old practice of draping the doors or entry halls between less-used rooms and the main source of heat.

Opening drapes during sunlight hours to take advantage of passive solar is a freebie.

Keeping most-used rooms at 68 degrees for comfort and turning that down to 60 degrees at night, and keeping rarely-used rooms above freezing but lower than comfort — can save a lot. By one estimate, each degree dropped saves an estimated two percent on your heating bill.

PG&E offers tips to save energy along with energy managing services, such as Energy Tracker, to help you control your bill. Equal Pay averages costs throughout the year to avoid winter bill-shock. You may also find that you use your electricity differently than average and will save a few dollars if you choose Time of Use billing rather than Basic Service billing.

Low-income families and individuals should check with Community Connection for free weatherization supplies, financial assistance for weatherization, energy assistance programs, getting on the free wood list and other resources.

Help is waiting

Community Connection can help you apply for the following programs. Call 541-426-3840 to schedule an appointment and determine eligibility.

Low Income Energy Assistance Program

Energy bill payment assistance and free weatherization supplies for low-income renters or owners including basic home tightening products such as pipe wrapping, caulking, duct sealing, weather-stripping, energy efficient light bulbs and more.

Priorities will be given to seniors, disabled, veterans and families with young children. You may be placed on a waiting list.

Low income is $23,540 per year for a single person; $31,800 for two. This program begins Dec. 1, 2017.

Weatherization Assistance Program

Qualified low-income applicants receive a free full home weatherization energy audit. Auditors inspect crawlspace to your attic, heat systems, insulation, air infiltration, combustion appliances, refrigerator energy usage, some aspects of air quality especially carbon monoxide, faucet heads, window covers and give energy-related education to help the homeowner live more comfortably and efficiently. Weatherization contractor perform the approved work. Applicants are placed on a waiting list.

Housing Rehabilitation Program

A loan of up to $35,000 for rehab of a home that is owned or being purchased by the applicant. The loan is not repaid until the house is sold or the owner dies. Repairs may include plumbing, electrical, structural repair, roof repair, siding, paint, windows, insulation, heat system and floors.

Available to applicants that meet financial requirements. Example: Have a yearly income less than $30,800 per year for a single person in Wallowa County; $35,200 for two people. Other requirements also apply.

Wallowa Resources Free Wood List

With the help of donors of wood and volunteers from Wallowa Resources, individuals in need who use wood heat are able to receive approximately half-cord of wood (per delivery) to assist in heating. Priority is given to seniors, disabled, veterans and families with children. You will be placed on a list, and there is no guarantee that wood will be available. Call Community Connection to be placed on the “wood list.” You will be called directly by a volunteer from Wallowa Resources when a load of wood is available. Call 541-426-3840.


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