By Sydia Bell

When you hear the word weatherization, images of roof top solar panels and expensive futuristic gadgets might come to mind. On the contrary, weatherization is about being comfortable in your home during the winter months and saving money on cooling costs in the summer.

One way to do that is through Sustainable Home Initiative in the New Economy (SHINE), a residential weatherization program that offers Atlanta homeowner’s up to $3,500 in rebates towards qualifying improvements.

Atlanta resident, Kathleen Sobush, recently took advantage of the rebate program and made improvements to her 1920’s home. After a qualified contractor from the SHINE program informed her that 16.5 percent of the air being distributed throughout her home was lost through duct leaks, she made the decision to go forward with repairs. In a week’s time, all improvements were made from her electrical outlets being insolated, duct system being caulked and window trimmings capped and sealed. With most of the work being done by the contractors and the rest on her own, resulting in a 7 percent decrease in escaping air, Sobush said her home felt “a lot more comfortable and less drafty.”

The Caldwell family, who were one of the first to take advantage of the program in 2010, had previously insulated their 1938 home and was surprised by the findings. After an assessment, an inspector said he had never seen a draftier home. Once repairs were made, the Caldwells not only felt the differences in the climate of their house but in their pockets.

To date the Caldwells have saved more than $500 when comparing cooling costs for the month of July in 2010 to 2011 and have had a 44 percent reduction of air loss. They are not only pleased with the results, but encourage others to take advantage of the program.

SHINE inspectors came into both homes and began the process by conducting an assessment looking into carbon monoxide levels, appliance and lighting efficiency, air quality and storm water considerations. Once the audit was preformed, both homeowners were given a list of improvements that would reduce energy consumption and improve indoor air quality. All upgrades were prioritized and ranked according to what was most urgent and where the most savings would be realized.

Then it was up to the homeowner to decide which improvements were going to be made. Once all repairs were made, the assessors returned and conducted a post-test where all results were given to homeowner and submitted to Georgia Power for rebate criteria.

For both Sobush and the Caldwell family, the SHINE program gave them a heads up on issues that weren’t on their list of improvements. Sobush was informed that her air conditioning unit would need to be replaced in the near future and the Caldwells were notified of a potentially dangerous gas leak. Although initially interested in improving the comfort and cost efficiency, both homeowners found that their families overall safety was also enhanced.

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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.