Pladson is one of six new weatherization technicians - three of whom were previously unemployed - hired to help RRVCA's Recovery Act production goals.
After receiving $2.8 million through the Recovery Act, RRVCA was able to increase the number of income-eligible homes it weatherizes each month from 10 to 20. RRVCA plans to hire two more technicians within the next month.
"The Recovery Act money has allowed us to add capable staff members and significantly increase our workload," says Chris Loveless, RRVCA's Co-Administrator of Housing and Programming
Juggling day and night
Prior to being hired by RRVCA in April 2009, Pladson juggled working nights as a cook in a hotel kitchen and staying at home with his children during the day. His background in mechanical engineering and aircraft construction made him a good candidate for the job, which requires applicants to have at least one year of construction experience.
"It can be a culture shock to see people who don't have a lot of money. But it's nice to be able to help them out," Pladson says. "Every day is a learning experience because every site has different challenges."
As a weatherization technician, Pladson works on a four-man crew that improves homes' energy efficiency through several processes. Technicians conduct diagnostic tests to identify structural problems that can contribute to heat loss and air infiltration. They make physical improvements, such as replacing leaky windows and doors or installing more insulation and sealing air ducts. Technicians also test the efficiency of the homes' appliances and discuss best practices for energy use with residents.
Cold weather – lower heating costs
In the four counties RRVCA handles, the average winter temperatures rarely climb above freezing. For that reason, the nonprofit's work improving the energy efficiency of low-income families' homes helps them be more comfortable and decrease their heating bills.
"Heating costs in this area can be very expensive, and a lot of the people whose houses we work on are very appreciative," Pladson says. "One woman had tears in her eyes as we were leaving. I ran into her at a town picnic with my wife and kids later, and she thanked me again."
The entire weatherization process takes three to 10 days, depending on the size of the home. Loveless, RRVCA's co-administrator says weatherization improvements decrease homes' monthly heating bills by an average of 24 to 26 percent. Pladson can recall one instance where weatherization helped cut an individual's monthly heating bill in half.
To qualify for RRVCA's weatherization services, which are provided free of charge, families or individuals earning 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level or who qualify for fuel assistance under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.