Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obama or not...

I'm still skeptical of politicians and promises from them...but hey, at least my alderman was nice enough to answer my long-ass email and tell me he'd look into the funding issue. That's nice of him. :) Here's the response...


Thank you for your email regarding the Historic Chicago Bungalow program, and welcome to Portage Park! I was unaware of the funding problem you referred to until you called it to my attention. I will make an effort to work with the HCBA and DOE to try to find the funds necessary to implement the goals of this very important initiative.

My office has been in contact with the executive director of the HCBA and we will keep you apprised of any developments. In the meantime, if my service office can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Ald. XXXXXXX, XXth Ward

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's gettin' hot in here...I hope...

So, after assessing the insulation quote we got, and then (as previously mentioned) finding out that the HCBA had run out of funding for its Energy$avers grant this year, we decided that insulating the first floor brick walls can wait. First of all, it would cost us as much as it would to insulate the portions of the second floor that need insulation, in effect, doubling our ultimate bill. Secondly, I'm not entirely sold on the effectiveness of insulating the gap between the lathe/plaster and three wythes of brick. I mean, these bungalows were built originally to be energy efficient, in a sense...the brick is thick enough to keep the air out, and I'm not sold on the fact that foam is going to make a major difference, honestly. Maybe I'm wrong...if I am, and there's some evidence out there that supports it, please, let me know. I'm just operating on common sense here! :)

So, we're gonna get the floor in between the first and second floors filled with ProPink blown-in insulation, the knee wall on the slanted side of the roof insulated and house-wrapped (though I need to ask them about what that might do to the storage in the crawlspace--make it cold? make it "damp"? That would be bad. Also, there are two areas that we currently do not have access to in the corners of the dormered side. They'll cut an access hole in the wall to each and insulate behind there and under the floors there too. The only "disappointment" is that they can't get access to the flat dormered roof...I was hoping to have that insulated as well...particularly in the hopes that it would help to soundproof it, since we hear the rain falling on the roof a lot of times, and that's kinda distracting, particularly at night when you're trying to sleep. But they couldn't do it, apparently...oh well.

All in all, I'm hoping that this, coupled with weatherstripping the stupid casement windows up there (I HATE casements, especially since they have no storms and the screens are on the inside of the windows), will help us out on our gas bill, and possibly on our electric bill in the summer.

The insulation company did tell us that a lot of the upstairs is insulated and that the kitchen addition is insulated also. So that's good.

In terms of the Energy$avers grant, we're hoping that next year, we'll be able to use it to replace our water heater, furnace or see about installing some sort of energy-efficient central air system. The grant is awesome, and I'd like to get as much money out of it as I'm eligible for -- which is probably what everyone did this year, and that's why they ran out. It's not's smart! :)

Anyway, the insulators are scheduled to come the week after Thanksgiving, so we might even get to feel some positive effects of all the insulation this winter. And that's good! So we'll see how it goes...I will certainly keep you all posted!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taking action...

I decided to post the letter I wrote to my alderman regarding the Energy$avers grant money running out...if you're an HCBA member and feel as though this crystallizes your thoughts, you're more than welcome to "steal" it, change the info and send it to your alderman as well. It's a bit informal, yes, but I'm not "defiant" about this. I understand they run out of money now and again, I'm just hoping that he'll push for more funding next year, to prevent this. I back-dated the post to Nov. 2 as well, to help differentiate it in case anyone is searching for info on it, somehow.

Dear Alderman XXXXXX,
My wife and I recently (well, 1.5 years ago) moved into our bungalow just a few blocks from your offices, actually, and were really excited about getting our bungalow registered with the HCBA (Historic Chicago Bungalow Association) and the pride that went along with it, as well as, of course, the grants and whatnot.
This year, the HCBA launched an Energy$avers Grant program that tied their previous multiple grants together into one easy-to-use, very generous but very necessary program. It made it very easy for HCBA members to be reimbursed for energy-efficient home improvements, up to $6,000.
I'm not one to complain about free money, mind you. I very much appreciate the program. It's a WONDERFUL program, and it's great that the program helps those of us who are not "disadvantaged" as well as those who really need it, financially. Many programs don't do that, and it's nice that this appears founded on the idea of conservation/environment rather than class and status.
My wife and I had our first child earlier this year, and with winter approaching, we were concerned about a lack of insulation in our 8-month-old's bedroom upstairs. Insulation projects qualify for the Energy$avers grant. So I was excited that I would be able to do this home improvement, for all the reasons you can imagine, as a homeowner yourself, I'm sure.
When I contacted the HCBA, however, they told me that because of demand, the grant's funding had completely run out. I was shocked, and I'm quite a bit perturbed about it. Although my wife and I hold stable jobs and have steady incomes, we probably could not afford to properly insulate our home without the help of the Energy$avers grant. I'm sure there are folks who are in much more "dire straits" than we are in this realm. I've attached the letter they've sent out to people applying for the grant and I've also pasted in my correspondence with the very helpful XXXXXXX at the HCBA, below, for context if you need it.
I'm not writing to complain. I'm not writing to bash the HCBA or the city. In fact, quite the contrary. The HCBA has been marvelous, fantastic and great, and is a great, great resource for those of us who own bungalows in the city. I'm also not writing you to say that my wife and I deserve anything more than others (because, truthfully, there are people probably in more need than we are) or that we need someone to go to bat for us. Not at all.
I am asking, however, that you to do everything in your power to persuade your fellow council members and/or the mayor that this program needs additional funding, either emergency funding this year (apparently, HCBA has a backlog of people who applied for the grant already and have to WAIT for approval -- which is required for the projects they want funded -- to be eligible for the grant money), or simply more funding next year in response to this year's "run on funds."
I know that the city has been all over the news for deficits, layoffs, funding, etc. I know there probably isn't much money out there. However, at the very least, I hope that when budgeting rolls around in 2009, the bungalow owners of the XXXXX Ward (which are many, given the Bungalow Belt's swath through the ward) can count on you to make our case for additional funding. Energy efficiency helps not only homeowners, but also the utilities, the municipalities and the communities, when adopted across many households. This might be only a drop in the bucket, but for this city, which hasn't been top-of-the-line on recycling/conservation like many others, this would be a good "show of force" to convince some people to minimize their energy use.
I appreciate your time and what you do to keep our neighborhood clean, safe, friendly and a nice place to live. I grew up on the Southwest Side, in a neighborhood that was once like this, until gangs took over. That neighborhood hasn't recovered since, and it's unfortunate. I hope to be able to do my part as an adult to help keep Portage Park and the XXXX Ward as good as it is, for my family and those around me.
Thank you for reading this email, and all the best to you...