After I originally submitted this article, and posted it onto my blog, it was so well received by the United States Department of Energy that it was posted at their website.
That was an unexpected honor.
Here is that link:
To The Cumberland Times News:
I hope that this letter may be posted in the, "Reader Commentary" section in its entirety, as this is all great information that paints a clear and accurate picture about a wonderful program that HRDC offers to our citizens. Thanks once again for providing me the opportunity to be heard in our fine local newspaper.
I would also like to offer this to the paper for free to publish in its entirety as a separate article. I hope you can consider that as well...the information here I think can greatly help many in our community. Perhaps it could be featured in the Allegany Magazine as well.
I could always cut it down but I think it would lose a lot f its over all appeal and a ton of great information. Perhaps if needed i could make it two articles for reader commentary as well...one as a thank you letter and the other about local programs and assistance, which are often very tricky to find information about or get applications for for those less fortunate that have no idea where to start.
I would very much enjoy writing for the paper if you have any openings or free lance assignments. I am currently going through the disability process, but most of the time I feel well enough to research and write. I have a very wide knowledge base, a college education, and I am 42 years old with a lot of interesting experiences. I would happily meet in person as well if so offered. it would certainly be an honor and a dream fulfilled to be able to write even more, as I have written most of my life and have quite a passion for it.
Thanks, John S. Swygert
461 N. Waverly Terrace
Cumberland, Maryland 21502
240 522 xxx or
240 345 xxx
---------My article follows--------------------------------
There are so many wonderful and exciting things that are happening in our cozy little town of Cumberland. With the approach of winter not too far away, I was in awe of what took place at my home here in Cumberland.
Recently I applied for the HRDC's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). I received a letter telling me that I was, "certified as eligible" to receive the weatherization services to my home and that an appointment would have to be made for an energy audit to be performed on my home. I made the appointment not knowing quite what to expect overall and what follows in remarkable! What follows is what I observed being performed at and on my home to the best of my knowledge and I certainly hope to portray everything as accurately as possible, but again, as I am not a professional in this field, these are simply my observations.
The day of the primary appointment, Ken Rafferty of HRDC came to my home and we did a simple walk through of the home looking at any area that could have insulation installed, weather stripping added to doors, windows replaced, plumbing wrapped, the water heater getting an insulating jacket, doors needing replacement, etc.
On a subsequent occasion, Alan Hanson, from my understanding the owner of a sub-contracted business by HRDC arrived and performed a test to see how efficient or inefficient my home was. Using thermal imaging after a relatively simple preparation process the home was imaged to see where its weak spots were that could perhaps otherwise be overlooked, as these areas may not be so visible to the naked eye.
On a third appointment, they each ( Ken and Alan) walked through the home together and and discussed what they each individually found during their respective studies of the home, and what appeared to be the best course of action to take to remedy the issues.
Next, a crew of very nice and respectable employees showed up bringing both smiles and materials to start the job. There were many workers each with their own expertise, that worked both individually and together to efficiently accomplish the task at hand.
The net result was this:
The attic received nearly two feet of blown insulation made of a chemically treated fire retardant recycled paper product (a green product). They also manufactured a new attic entry door for the ceiling.
Please keep in mind that this entire program is very tightly audited and monitored and that all the work performed is done so under strict Federal, State, and Local guidelines, respectively, as well as under the close supervision of the head of the program and through to th owners of each company involved. This is a very reassuring way to get the work started.
The crawl space under my kitchen (entry gained through my basement) was fully insulated by hand with rolled insulation. The furnace room was also insulated with rolled insulation between all of the floor joists that support the overhead floors to the above level, as these are open and relatively easy to insulate. The front most room of my basement which is roughly finished then received a treatment where the loose type of insulation is blown in with a machine after several small (roughly 2" diameter) holes were drilled to gain access to these areas between these floor joists, as they were covered with a lathe and plaster ceiling. The plugs drilled out are then reinserted into the holes from whence they came and caulked in place, thus re-sealing the area.
The concluding work finishing the basement out were foam plumbing wraps on the copper pipes to help keep freezing out and warmth in the plumbing. Finally, there was weather stripping placed around the basement's exterior door as well as the basement's interior door located at the top of the steps where entry is gained to the home's main level.
The home's main entry door (a pre-hung modern airtight unit) was replaced including a matched key door knob and dead bolt. The bathroom on this same level received a vent fan and a new green board ceiling. The adjoining washroom between the bathroom and the foyer (all of which were a block and stick built addition to the original structure of the home) received blown insulation in the above ceiling in its entirety. The other exterior door on this level had weather stripping installed.
The second floor was snugly between the attic and first floor and was sufficently zipped up and needed only minimal work.
All three floors of my home received matching and combined fire and CO2 alarm that is audibly very loud, thus replacing my older units. They also each feature verbal warnings as well stating what the threat is. They are efficient compact units with excellent battery life.
As a SAFETY NOTE with the winter season nearly upon us, the fire station offers free smoke alarms ( I believe one per household) to homeowners in the city of Cumberland. You can call and get details or stop by during normal business hours usually.
Along with about five window panes (non storm windows) that were replaced throughout my home, many cans (roughly 30 - 40) of self expanding foam was utilized to seal off any questionable as well as hard to reach and/or awkward areas.
Next, unexpectedly and to my surprise, Mark from Anderson Heating and Air Conditioning called to schedule an appointment to tune-up my natural gas furnace. The appointment day came along and my furnace was quickly considered "condemned", which was a jolt of reality with the impending winter not too far off.
As the first phase of work was now finished, I patiently but nervously waited to see what could be done, if anything, to salvage my old trusty work horse furnace from the era of the late 50's to early 60's. The phone rang, and Mark stated, to my total surprise, that I had been approved for an entirely new furnace. What incredibly exciting news! We set an appointment for work to start on the furnace. Two days after the appointment I had a brand new "Trane" brand high efficiency furnace installed that was fully functional. It even included a new easily programed digital thermostat manufactured by Honeywell.
Upon first turning on the furnace myself (my first time testing the unit) I immediately felt that its strength forcing air through the duct work of the home was significantly and obviously much much stronger then before and therefore, I felt the temperature raising in the home within a couple of minutes, I also noticed that there were no drafts streaming through the home either.
The basic mission of this program is rather multi-faceted. One thing for sure is that any home worked on will be more efficient not just at heating in the winter but equally keeping the home cool during the warmer months. The monies saved by the homeowner can better be utilized enhancing their lives by lowering the consumption of natural resources, an obvious plus for our increasingly threatened environment, so that those funds can be spent elsewhere in both the home and the community, thus not only helping the homeowner but the entire community.
It also helps the community by increasing the homeowners pride in their property which is often behaves as a two fold catalyst. First, for the homeowner to further enhance their property and secondarily, for neighbors to often follow in close suit. It also provides many jobs through these companies working together to perform the total package of work, as well as teaching positions for those in the trade earning their licenses.
This to me is exactly the essence of what the " GREEN MOVEMENT" is all about. First, reducing our own personal carbon footprint by efficiently consuming less natural resources through the use of modern and more efficient technology. Using this more modern technology creates a new work force with a fresh clean perspective, thus creating more jobs in many ways from manufacturing the new products (often made of recycleables), teaching the new philosophy and techniques to students in the trade on their way to earning their licenses, and thusly creating new jobs as we push the envelope to gain the upper hand on treating Mother Earth more properly and respectfully. Once this cycle has started we can continue down a path of better design by engineers making even more efficient products that not long were even deemed possible or at the very least, not feasible. Each change in technology has the ability to further revolutionize this new "Green Industry" thus propelling the industry along.
This is what I consider a new philosophy that has been evolving in the last few recent years very rapidly especially and mostly due to our recent and/or current recession and the fears faced by the rise in fuel prices (in particular petroleum products). These are valuable lessons we are learning and this is something we can demonstrate and share with the rest of the world as we pave the way into a new green future, but it takes fine programs like these.
As an early nation we were strictly in an "Agricultural Era", as all we had was raw land. Once we became efficient as a nation and were able to sustain life at home in the U.S.A. with the food we grew and other raw materials we farmed and with the wealth we started to amass as a nation while trading at home and especially abroad with other nations, we began to transition into an "Industrial Age". After labor prices rose here for many reasons, we often outsourced labor to other nations, as it was often less expensive to manufacture in those nations and then ship it abroad and/or back home for trade. We were the industrial giant of the world. After amassing even greater wealth and becoming one of, if not the most, wealthiest nations in the world and with our labor prices rising ever sharper, we made the transition into the "Service Age". We as a nation are beyond that now as an era and are, I believe, at the beginning of the wild frontier of the "Green Era". We now have the ability to pave the way for the world and with the world as we are upon the threshold of this new golden age. The basic philosophy of this program simply illustrates how it helps so many from the less fortunate as myself, to the blue collar workers all the way up to the white collar professionals. This is a simple and beautiful system that should be emulated often during this transition that is currently effecting all industries and market places. We, in the great state of Maryland in particular, should be proud that we are on the cutting edge of the new "Green Era" as we are swiftly becoming the leaders setting the stage for others to follow. We in Maryland utilize wind, hydro, and solar energy and are doing so more and more often every year. We, as a nation, must maintain this path of growth and efficiency in order to move forward and build our new worldwide economy while setting an example for other countries.
During the work being performed on my home, I did not observe one single area of shortcuts in quality of materials or craftsmanship, and I was also treated with respect and dignity. Brands used included, but were not limited too, Honeywell, Lumber 84, Trane, and Lowes to name only a few.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a warm and special heart felt thanks to everyone involved in this process, starting with Ken Rafferty and those closely involved at HRDC, as well as Alan Hanson and his wonderful crew of warm friendly employees, and lastly (in order of work performed) Mark and his employees from Anderson Heating and Air Conditioning. Please forgive me if I failed to mention anyone at all as well as not using everyones names individually as there were simply too many for me to remember accurately.
To apply for this program you can write to HRDC Weatherization Assistance Program at 125 Virginia Avenue Cumberland, Maryland 21502. You may also inquire about it when filling out the Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) applications. Do not worry if you qualify for assistance or not...simply fill out the paperwork, which is simple, and wait for new correspondence asking or instructing what you need to do next if you have qualified. Many folks do not apply and their families often suffer because of this. These programs exist to better enhance our lives individually and as a community so that we may each be more comfortable, healthier, and thus more productive members of our city. When we are each more productive their will be a larger tax base, which again helps us build even better programs, fund more folks in need of assistance more quickly, enabling them to get on their feet even quicker, which in turn helps us maintain our infrastructure here at home. The cycle can keep growing.
To save the best for last, this (HRDC Weatherization Assistance) is a FREE program that is offered to homeowners. You read that correctly...FREE.
As I am personally suffering through some ill health currently, this will make me a healthier, happier, more productive neighbor myself. I will always attest to the miracle of the gift that was offered to me, and for that I am forever thankful. For me personally, it is better to be warm and healthy then to be cold with pride!
You have all been very good to me and it was a pleasure meeting each of you. Thanks for letting me watch you work a little and pick your brains, as well as joke around a little too...you lifted my spirits and have provided me a healthier and safer environment on which to live.
I have a lot of information on local resources. i.e., phone numbers, addresses, programs and contact information. I feel as though I have a great debt to this local community. If you are reading this and any of that appeals to you or you need some advice from what I have learned with the help of many friends, simply call me from 9 am - 5 pm M-F and I will happily give you all the information you are willing to write down, so have your pen and paper ready. My number is 240-345-xxxx and I have voice mail if I am away.
John S. Swygert
News from July 28, 2012:
Is the Paradigm Shifting?
It is now March 14, 2015 and read this !!!
Conventional wisdom once suggested that being aggressive on expanding America’s renewable energy potential meant sacrificing its focus on oil. Critics, largely shouting from right-of-center, accused liberals of undermining the American economy and hurting national interests by working to expand things like solar and wind. Hardly anyone is saying that any more… because Obama’s presidency has blown that idea out of the water.
You may have noticed recently that your price at the pump has been a lot lower than it had been. In the last months of 2014, the price of gas was in freefall, which in turn had acted like a booster shot to the arm of the economy. The stock market soared; companies began hiring at faster and faster rates (they are now complaining that they can’t find enough workers to fill their payrolls); and more importantly, average Americans saved thousands of dollars.
Prices have begun to creep up again, although much more slowly than they had fallen, but a new report looking at oil reserves found that the oil industry is booming so big right now that companies are literally running out of places to put the oil they’ve extracted.
It may be a problem that many people don’t think about, but yes there is an upper limit to how much oil we can store. Experts predict this “problem” may spell another plummet in gas prices, even during the summer months where we traditionally see higher costs.
Your car may rejoice, but if the environmentalist in you has pangs of unease, don’t worry. There are also signs that Obama’s legacy will be that of as the turning point in America’s renewable energy policy. The fact that he didn’t have to achieve huge gains in green tech at the expense of American energy output is something to be admired.
President Obama has spent both terms working to constantly ramp up America’s solar energy capabilities. Given our nation’s large expanses of extremely sunny, arid areas (think Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico), many energy scientists believe solar could be the key to America’s break from oil dependency. To capitalize on that potential, the Obama administration has been pouring money into solar. The results speak for themselves.
According to a recent review, between the years of 2010 and 2014, America’s solar capacity grew by a staggering 418%. That’s still a far cry from where solar leaders like Germany and China are at, but it shows that America is not only willing but able to compete in what will surely be the next frontier of energy production.
Not that this seems to have satisfied Obama. In his fiscal 2016 budget proposal, Obama announced plans to further invest in fighting climate change and promoting emerging renewable-energy technologies.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
While many of Mr. Obama’s energy and environmental plans have been included in prior year proposals, the 2016 proposal includes a new $4 billion fund, dubbed the Clean Power State Initiative Fund, to help states comply with draft Environmental Protection Agency regulations cutting carbon emissions from U.S. power plants.The fund, which would cost $4 billion over the next decade, would encourage states to exceed the minimum requirements of rules the EPA is expected to complete this summer.
The leaps forward are not without opposition, of course. In this case, specifically Republicans in Congress who, flush with oil company money, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo until the very last drop of oil is sucked out of the ground. Making their job hard is that until recently they were able to claim Obama was hurting the economy and industry by being pro-environment. However, with the economy roaring back to life, oil extraction near record levels, and a booming renewable energy industry, that claim is looking laughable.
As always, the best way to prove detractors wrong is by actually doing the things they say you couldn’t. Obama knows that lesson better than anyone.