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Helen Humphreys never thought she would be able to afford the upfront costs of making her home more energy-efficient. Helen lives in southeastern Idaho and relies on Social Security for her income. Her energy bills sometimes left her pinching pennies.

“My heating bills were quite high for a house this size, so I was a little alarmed,” she says about her circa 1951 home, which doesn’t even take up 1,000 square feet.

This year, though, the Southeastern Idaho Community Action Agency had more funding than usual for its weatherization program because of $1.7 million in stimulus funding it will spend through March 2011. The agency ran a newspaper ad that asked people who had problems with high-dollar energy bills to call them. Helen responded.

“I was so amazed when they came out and analyzed what needed to be done, but I thought I couldn’t possible afford it on my income,” she says. “That’s when they told me I wouldn’t have to pay for anything, and I thought they were just putting me on.”

SEICAA installed nine energy-efficient windows, two new doors, insulation, and new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. All of these improvements were made at no cost to Helen with money from the Recovery Act.

Helen says it’s a little early to predict exactly what her energy savings are going to be monthly, but even for the bill she just received — with only about half of a month of energy used being with the weatherization improvements installed — she saved $24 in comparison to her bill at the same time in the previous year. This winter, Helen’s home consumes less energy yet feels warmer.