Rochester

Resident partners with weatherization program on LED bulb donations

Helping families reduce their energy burden

Spirit of Giving

 

For several years, Tom Williamson has been part of a Rochester interfaith group distributing energy-efficient LED light bulbs.

“I’ve done about all I can do to reduce energy use in my home, but I can save more energy by helping put these bulbs in other people’s homes,” Williamson shared. “This helps people by reducing their electric bill and helps the planet by reducing carbon emissions.”

When the pandemic limited public gatherings, it put a pause on Tom’s efforts to distribute bulbs. This October, he found another way. He partnered up with Semcac, an organization that provides weatherization services for multiple Southeastern Minnesota cities and counties, including Rochester, through the federally-funded Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). The funds for WAP are distributed by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to 23 service providers in the state like Semcac.

 

I’ve done about all I can do to reduce energy use in my home, but I can save more energy by helping put these bulbs in other people’s homes. This helps people by reducing their electric bill and helps the planet by reducing carbon emissions.

Tom Williamson, Rochester resident

It was a sunny afternoon when Randy, one of the weatherization technicians for the local community action agency, Semcac, stopped by Tom’s home to accept an assortment of 350 new LED bulbs. “An LED lightbulb is something small,” said Williamson, “but enough bulbs saving energy in the community can add up to something great.” Williamson is correct, using about 85% less energy and lasting 20 years, an LED can save about $250 over its life compared to an incandescent bulb. Including the bulb cost this brings the total possible lifetime savings of the 350 bulbs to about $87,000.

LED bulbs are just one of the energy-saving improvements provided by weatherization programs like Semcac’s. The weatherization program helps to permanently reduce energy bills for low-income homeowners and renters with efficient lighting, insulating, air sealing, and even repair or replacement of furnaces, boilers, or water heaters. Generally, eligible low-income households live in less efficient housing and as a result have average energy costs that are three times higher than their counter parts. Weatherization reduces those costs by up to 40%.

WAP has been in existence since 2005, but only 9% of the eligible households in the state have been served in those 15 years due to the low levels of funding. Olmsted County, where Rochester is located, has an even lower 6% rate of service, where only 772 of the 12,227 eligible households have been weatherized. This makes Williamson’s donation that much more meaningful, as it helps stretch the already limited resources of Semcac’s weatherization team.

An LED lightbulb is something small, but enough bulbs saving energy in the community can add up to something great.

Tom Williamson, Rochester resident

Melissa Feine, the Weatherization Coordinator for Semcac, explained that before providing weatherization services they do a pre-energy audit to make sure there is no lead, mold, or vermiculite in the home, and if there is, they are unable to provide weatherization services. “We would not have to leave those clients empty-handed, but would now be able to give them LED bulbs with this donation from Tom.” Feine said Semcac weatherization teams visit at least 100 homes in Rochester each year, and that they would install and provide education about the energy efficiency of the LED bulbs during those visits.

Williamson could not be more enthusiastic about the partnership. “What I really like is that Semcac will make sure they are going to someone who needs them and that they actually replace the incandescent bulbs. Then I’ll be as sure as I can be that the bulbs are installed and saving energy.” He intends to continue with future LED bulb donations to Semcac and hopes that more people will get involved and make donations, too.

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