Spring has arrived in Central Florida, bringing with it high pollen counts, love bugs, and, of course, the world-famous Central Florida heat. The rising temperatures create the need to close windows and turn on air-conditioners to avoid the ever-increasing outside heat and humidity. This transition also brings higher utility bills, as we begin to run our air conditioning systems almost non-stop.

What if the A/C system is more than 20 years old, and is set to 75 degrees but it is still 80 inside the home? How much of that cold air is leaking out, and warm air coming in through cracks, window seals, and insultation deficits throughout the house?

Often, the question becomes, “How much is this going to cost to fix the A/C?” While most Central Floridians adjust to the power bill increase from winter to spring, others cannot. Additionally, many cannot afford the upkeep or replacement of an entire system or perform the maintenance needed to keep a house ‘energy efficient.’ And some households may be running inefficient systems which are devouring incomes through high utility bills.

The Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA), along with the Florida Department of Commerce and the US Department of Energy, created the Osceola Council on Aging’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in 2008. The goal of the WAP is to address the issues of high-utility bills and inefficient systems within low-income residences in Osceola County.

WAP focuses on increasing energy efficiency within low-income homes, reducing residential energy expenditures, and improving the health and safety of residents in both Orange and Osceola counties.

“The Weatherization Assistance Program not only targets reducing monthly energy burdens by improving energy efficiency, but we work to educate clients on energy conservation measures,” says Chip Ford, VP of Home Repair Services at the OCOA. “With the hot, sweltering, summer months around the corner, we want to make sure residents (who can benefit from WAP funding) have the information, education, and resources needed from our team at the Council on Aging.”

Weatherization initiatives under the WAP include repairing seals around windows and doors, insulating, and repairing A/C ducts, floor repairs, improving home ventilation, adding solar screens to block solar heat, repairing HVAC units, reducing air infiltration opportunities, and conducting energy audits on refrigerators, HVAC systems, and water heaters. In 2021, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act increasing the government’s investment in American homes needing weatherization services and upgrades.

“From a local standpoint, this law presents a monetary influx to pay for not only upgrades and weatherization services for qualifying homes, but creates additional jobs for local contractors, in-house home repair crews, and additional expenditures at local businesses,” added Ford.

Each June, the State of Florida contracts with hundreds of organizations statewide once funding begins. According to Energy.gov, the WAP is the single largest residential energy efficiency program in the United States, with the OCOA being the only organization managing the program for Osceola and Orange Counties; a metropolitan area of close to two million people.

An application and supporting documentation are required to obtain WAP support. This includes a photo ID, verification of social security number, proof of income, proof of home ownership, the last two months of electric bills, and proof of disability (if applicable). Income guidelines to qualify are based on household size and maximum income, per household, per year.

Residents who would like to request WAP support should apply through the Council on Aging office. For more information, call 407-846-8532, or contact an intake specialist at weatherization@osceola-coa.com.