Soaring fuel costs exacerbate weatherization contractor backlog

Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:57 PM EST
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ALBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) - With soaring fuel costs, more people are looking to button up their homes to save money and conserve energy. But good luck trying to find a professional contractor. Some are scheduling upwards of a year and a half out to get the work done.

The winter is cold up on the Canadian border in Alburgh, especially when you live in a 200-year-old farmhouse. Leo Henry was born there and has lived and worked on the dairy farm his whole life.

Now, thanks to Today, thanks to Champlain Valley Weatherization, an arm of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, he’s getting his house weatherized at no cost.

“Makes it very nice that the weatherization comes in here, makes it a little more comfy in there. I’m getting kind of old to cut wood now, so it makes it a lot easier if we don’t use as much fuel,” Henry said.

The program specializes in buttoning up homes for people who are at 80% of the median income or lower. “It’s a lot of people are very anxious to get us and we get a lot of calls every day. ‘When are you coming? When’s my turn?’” said the program’s Dwight Decoster.

He says they have nearly 250 customers waiting because they can’t meet the burgeoning demand with the current staffing. Their waitlist has stretched to a year and a half. Decoster says high fuel costs are stoking demand. “We have all the money we can use --and then some -- but we need our own workforce. The guys and girls that are actually putting the materials into the building -- that’s what we need,” he said.

Henry says he’s grateful he’s one of those who can get the work done, and he’s already seeing results. “Any little help would be appreciated and it looks like they are doing a really good job, too, I can tell already that it’s getting warmer in the house, so that makes it great,” he said.

A Burlington ordinance last year mandated weatherizing of the city’s least efficient rental properties. To get the work done, property owners need to schedule an energy audit--but that’s in high demand, too. “The reality is we know that they can’t get the work done on the audit side for quite a few months. Most of them are scheduled out into late summer or early fall already. That’s all they need to do for this next step, so they are relieved when they find that out,” said the city’s Bill Ward.

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