Home Improvement & Remodeling

Home Repair Programs for North Minneapolis Tornado Victims

Minneapolis has received a $750,000 grant for North Side tornado repairs from Minnesota's Housing Board.

The money is to be dispensed in interest-free loans of up to $30,000 repayable when the house sells. The 30-year interest-free loans will be available for households earning less than 115 percent of area median income.

In other closely related new, an arrangement has been worked out for Minneapolis homeowners with tornado damage to access loans from a separate $1 million Quick Start fund that was awarded to the city by the state. So far, only five North Side homes have received Quick Start money, for a total of about $150,000.

Source: Star Tribune

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Anoka County Home Weatherization Program Expands

157 residents were going to receive weatherization assistance from the Anoka County Community Action Program. Now, thanks to $1.6 million in federal stimulus money, the program will be available to nearly 300 more. Additionally, workers will be able to look more closely at more clients' energy use than they've been able to in the past. This will enable them to find more solutions to bring a home's utility costs down.

Anoka County's allocation is part of $131 million in stimulus weatherization aid being distributed throughout the state. The federal money allows ACCAP to triple its client load and raises the average allocation per home from $3,000 to $6,500.

The program is available to county residents who qualify for federal home heating aid. The cutoff is about 200% of federal poverty guidelines, or $44,100 a year for a family of four. Those with the highest energy consumption generally get first priority because unusually high energy bills signal that something in the home is malfunctioning. After that, seniors have priority, then disabled residents.

"Before they have the work they're turning to us saying they don't know where else to turn," said Donna Mattson, ACCAP's housing services director. "They're having trouble with their bills; this allows them to put more money toward other bills. Their furnace is dying or has gone, and they're just in a panic."

Sometimes, workers are able to solve problems that had caused a real hazard. In one mobile home, the furnace had been out for a year, but the client had sky-high gas bills because she was paying to run a leaking hot-water heater. She also had been heating the entire place using space heaters.

ACCAP has added 16 full-time auditor and staff positions, and 15 part-time contractor positions to accommodate the extra money and work. The ACCAP's goal is to weatherize 450 qualifying families'...

Minneapolis & Saint Paul Partner Up for Weatherization Assistance Program

There is some economic and evironmental good news in the housing and construction sector. More than $10 billion of federal stimulus funding to retrofit homes, businesses and government buildings to be more energy efficient is starting to hit communities around the country, including Minnesota, Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Building energy retrofits save energy and reduce pollution at the same time they put people to work.

Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Low-cost technologies and certain construction practices can cut energy use in many buildings by up to 30%. That difference could translate into cost savings and implementing the fixes will create jobs.

Cities that receive retrofit funds from the Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program are spending the money quickly to create jobs. They're also trying to make sure they invest these resources in the best way possible for the best long term benefits.

And Minneapolis and Saint Paul are doing a good job. Our Twin Cities have partnered up to work together and have set a daring goal of retrofitting all the buildings in their city limits within 10 years. The Twin Cities have engaged a partnership of state and local agencies, utilities, industry groups, organized labor and community-based nonprofits to create a comprehensive system to get the work done.

There are other communities throughout Minnesota that have money waiting for home weatherization. Want to know what the requirements are? Want to find out if you qualify? Check out the Minnesota Housing website. ...

Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program

The Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program, until this year, was a modest $10 million-a-year operation plugging air leaks in about 3,500 Minnesota homes and apartment units. Both of those numbers are about to increase dramatically.

Minnesota is about to get $52.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize 16,800 homes this year. Once a first two-year phase of the program is done, the state will be eligible for another $65 million in weatherization funding.

Not only will it help families weatherize their homes, it will also help to create jobs for the people who will do the work. The money and demand could create nearly 1,000 jobs. People are already clamoring for weatherization job training. Energy workers are already being hired. Equipment has already been bought. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, which administers the program, has even cranked up its own staffing to make sure the money is used as intended.

Bottom line? Weatherization of thousands of homes is set to start as soon as the funds hit the state.

Homeowners aren't the only ones bracing for improvements. Minnesota government buildings may get up to $54 million to make energy-efficient repairs and upgrades. That's up from $716,000 last year.

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New State Law Regarding Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It's September and it’s getting colder outside.  Soon it will be fall, the time to seal up homes for the winter, prepare to start the furnace, and getting ready to use fireplaces.  This is the time of year when many carbon monoxide leaks are found.

On August 1st, a new law went into effect within the state of Minnesota which requires that ever new and existing single family home have a carbon monoxide detector installed within 10 feet of every room used for sleeping.  Multi-family homes and apartment buildings must comply by August 1, 2009.

According to the State Fire Marshall website:
  • Every single family dwelling and every multifamily dwelling unit shall be provided with a minimum of one approved and fully operational carbon monoxide alarm installed within ten (10) feet of each room lawfully used for sleeping purposes.
  • If bedrooms are located on separate floors additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten feet of these areas.
  • If bedrooms are located in separate areas (on the same level), additional carbon monoxide alarms would be necessary within ten (10) feet of these areas.
  • In lieu of installing multiple carbon monoxide alarms in the hallway, a separate carbon monoxide could be installed inside each sleeping room.
  • It is important that these devices be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installations instructions and not be placed in ‘dead’ air pockets such as corners of rooms, at the junction of walls and ceilings or within thirty-six (36) inches of ventilation ducts.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed at the height specified in the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms have an effective life-span of 5-7 years. Many manufacturers recommend these devices be replaced...

Importance of Window Safety

Though this is just a little late, last week (the last full week in April) was Window Safety Week, sponsored by the Safety Council and window, screen and door manufacturers.  It is spring time, headed into summer.  The storm windows are coming off and screens are going in.  For the safety of children, steps should be taken to lessen the chances of a window-related accident occurring.
  • Window screens should be strong and thick enough to keep bugs out, but kids should still be able to remove them if an emergency occurs.  It is also important to teach your children how to remove the screens if a fire occurs and they must escape.
  • When children are around, keep windows closed and locked. If you open a window for ventilation, make sure it’s a window which is out of reach of children, such as a window behind the kitchen sink.
  • If you do install window bars or guards, be sure you purchase those which have a release mechanism that will open easily in a fire emergency.  Again, teach them how to remove the guard if it is necessary to escape.
  • Keep furniture - or anything children can climb - away from windows. Children may use such objects as a climbing aid.
  • Now that you have the proper screens and guards, prevent the children from playing near windows.  Set and enforce rules about keeping children's play away from windows or patio doors. 
  • In order to lessen a fall's impact, place shrubs or grass beneath second- or third-story windows.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, falls from windows account for an estimated 12 deaths and 4,000 injuries among children 10 years of age or younger every year in the United States. Between 1993 and 2007, at least 193 serious injuries from window falls were reported in the state of Minnesota.  Nineteen of those injuries resulted in a death....

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