When the phone rings at Housing Assistance’s Energy Department, Suzanne Smith never knows what’s going to happen next.
“We answer calls from crisis to contractors to intake,” said Smith, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) coordinator. “It might be a homeowner with an emergency heat situation, pests in the attic, a failed appliance or people in need of assistance to combat high heating bills. It’s rewarding being able to help with so many different situations.”
In 2022, the Energy Department served 772 clients on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Among them was the Watson family (client name changed for privacy) of Falmouth, whose home received energy improvements – and a lot more.
The house has been in the family for about 70 years, but Virginia Watson said her father, who retired from the building trades, couldn’t keep up with maintenance in recent years due to health issues and financial limitations.
“His energy bills were high because the house wasn’t very well insulated, so the first step was an energy audit,” she said.
In addition to weatherization improvements, the family qualified for a new heating system and mold and vermiculite remediation. “When Suzanne told me all the ways they could help, I was just blown away. I literally cried,” said Watson.
Among the contractors who worked on the home was Douglas Mackie, owner of Living Water Restoration, which specializes in mold remediation. “There was a significant amount of hazardous mold in the home,” said Watson. Mackie put together a proposal that was approved by Cape Light Compact, which was the funder for this particular job.
Watson was thrilled to have her father’s home become warmer and safer. “I feel like the Energy program might have saved his life,” she said. “It’s such a better feeling to walk in there now.”
She also appreciated the compassion shown by Housing Assistance staff. “Every time I spoke with Suzanne, she asked me how my dad was,” she said. “It was not just business. It was personal.”
That’s all in a day’s work, said Smith. “When our Energy Department staff sees other problems in the home, we look for ways to help,” said Smith. “We want homeowners to have homes that are energy-efficient and safe in every way.”
The first stop for a client looking for energy savings is Cape Light Compact, and if they are determined to be income eligible using LIHEAP (Fuel Assistance) guidelines, they are referred to Housing Assistance.
The Energy Department offers many benefits accessible through the program’s home energy assessments to lower energy costs for both heating fuels and electricity. These can range from whole home air sealing and insulation, to replacing light bulbs, replacing inefficient appliances (refrigerators, freezers, window air conditioners, dehumidifiers, washing machines), and repair or replacement of heating systems for qualified households.
The Energy Department also works with many service-oriented contractors on Cape Cod and the Islands and partners with local agencies, businesses and organizations to help clients like the Watson family.
Free energy audits are available to all households in Barnstable and Dukes County. Residents can call Cape Light Compact at 800-797-6699 for more information.