OCONTO — With colder weather presumably around the corner, many are thinking about whether or not their house is well enough prepared to handle it. Home weatherization is an important aspect of home ownership year-round, and Newcap, Inc. is at the forefront of weatherization in the area.

Newcap was founded in 1965 as a part of the national community action network. According to Newcap’s website, the network was founded as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “first salvo on the War on Poverty.”

According to Val Filz, Newcap’s energy services director and vice president of energy services, Newcap’s weatherization program was set up in the mid-1970s to assist low-income families who may not have the resources needed to make sure their homes are energy efficient. She said on average, a house that receives full weatherization saves about $400 per year on energy costs.

Filz started in the weatherization program 33 years ago as an inventory clerk. “It was intriguing; There’s a real self-satisfaction knowing that you’re helping others to make their homes more comfortable and, in many cases, sustainable for people to stay in their homes and afford to heat and power their homes.”

Filz said over the years, a lot of aspects of the program have changed. She said the energy auditors used to have a prescriptive list of what to do at every house, but as new studies were done and new technology emerged, what the auditors had to look for needed to adapt. As an example of how things have changed, Josh Long, an energy auditor, said, “Back when I first started 11 years ago propane was expensive, so electric water heaters were fine. Now electric water heaters will be automatically be taken out and we’ll put gas ones in. Gas is more efficient.”

Ted Fuller, another energy auditor for Newcap, explained that energy auditors operate with a nationally-used computerized audit program that gives the auditors the best idea of how to save energy for individual houses. This makes the process of weatherizing a house more unique to that house’s particular needs, rather than relying on the same list for every house. The auditors examine everything from insulation to appliances and will replace things for the homeowner to help make their home as energy efficient as possible.

Both before and after all of the work is done, Fuller said they do a blower test on all of the doors before and after weatherizing a house to see how much air infiltrates in the beginning, and whether or not they prevented too much or too little air from escaping after the work is finished. “We have to watch all those parts of the job while we’re working to make sure by doing one thing, we’re not affecting something else in that house,” he said.

“Our program is for income eligible households,” Filz said, “and those households also have to apply for energy assistance. That program helps that household with monetary benefit towards their heat and electric expenses. There are a lot of people who need it and could use it, but just don’t know about it.”

Long said the services Newcap offers are free of charge, which he said in his experience people believe is too good to be true. “I had a woman’s sister last month who turned it down because she thought she had to pay for it. I told her that’s not the way it works, so she’s going to call back and re-apply,” he said.

“This is how I tell people (about the service): Don’t be too proud to have this service, because you are ultimately paying for it through your taxes. On your public service bill, there’s a surcharge that goes to this program, so don’t be ashamed or bashful to use the program,” Fuller said.

Filz said funding also comes through state public benefits funds. “Wisconsin is very fortunate that we have both federal and public benefit funds that come from that surcharge, because there are some states who don’t have that. They don’t have the means to do as many homes as we do here.”

Newcap’s weatherization program is available in eight counties in Wisconsin: Marinette, Florence, Forest, Menominee, Brown Oconto, Shawano and Oneida, as well as the Mole Lake/Sokaogon/Chippewa, Stockbridge-Munsee and Oneida Nation tribal communities. Those interested in the program may call 800-242-7334 for more information.