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UPDATE: $50,000 now available for High Efficiency Furnace Upgrades

UPDATE (11/19/14) – We’ve completed 10 furnace installations so far, with 15 more planned by mid-December. Our field crew has been busy!

For the second year in a row, Community Homeworks has secured funding to install high efficiency natural gas furnaces for 20 low-income homeowners in Kalamazoo County.  The program runs until December 12, 2014.

A high efficiency furnace will reduce energy bills by at least 15% and up to 50% in some cases.

Participants must meet all the following eligibility criteria:

  • Own and live in a home in Kalamazoo County (home must be either owned or under mortgage) – other restrictions may apply.
  • Existing heating systems must be compatible with the new systems (natural gas, forced air system with ductwork) Contact us for details.
  • TOTAL household income below 200% of the federally defined poverty level as defined below:

Weatherization Income Limits

  • Pay a $100.00 copayment at time of application.
  • Attend six (6) free education workshops (2 hours each) at Community Homeworks.

Applications will be available at 9:00 a.m., Monday, October 20, at the Community Homeworks office at 810 Bryant Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49001. Applications must be complete when submitted in order to be considered.  Accepted applications will be processed on a first come, first served basis.

 Documentation Required: 

  • Completed application
  • Proof of income
  • Copy of the deed to your home
  • Most recent copy of your Consumers Energy bill
  • A check for the required copayment. If an application is not accepted, the check will be returned.

Upon receiving eligible applications, Community Homeworks will schedule an in-home assessment of your current furnace, followed by a scheduled installation date.  All work is done by Community Homeworks’ qualified mechanical technicians. All furnace installations must be completed no later than December 12, 2014.

Cool Collaborations: Weatherization in Vine

Have you ever wondered what the steps are to weatherize a home? You may have noticed a draft around a window or door, but do you know how much heat is actually escaping your home and from where? And do you know how to improve the air sealing in your home enough to make a difference? Community Homeworks has just completed a pilot project with the Vine Neighborhood Association to work with a group of homeowners, tenants and landlords to weatherize eleven homes and apartments. The project was designed to bring Community Homeworks’ technical expertise and supervision together with the residents own efforts to produce real energy savings.

The first step in a weatherization project is to do an audit to determine how much air loss is happening. Have you ever heard the term “blower door test“?

Blower Door Test

Infographic by Sarah Gerrity, Energy Department.

Each home and apartment in the project had an initial blower door test performed. All the participating residents were trained by Community Homeworks on how to do the necessary air sealing of their homes using caulk and insulation. The goal was to achieve a 20-30% reduction in air infiltration in the second blower door test. Once that goal was achieved, Community Homeworks installed high-efficiency furnaces in each residence (and several new water heaters where needed). More than $70,000 in improvements were made in the 11 homes – residents can anticipate 25% or more in energy savings going forward. We are looking forward to evaluating the results of this pilot and continuing to develop innovative ways to bring the benefits of energy savings to the community.

Community Homeworks Featured in October Encore Magazine

We are so pleased to share the coverage Community Homeworks received in this month’s issue of Encore Magazine as the subject of the Good Works column. Thank you to Barbara for sharing her story and helping to spread the word about our work!IMG_1211

Furnace Fest 2014 Auction Items!

If you are looking for a fun way to support Community Homeworks, get ready to bid on some wonderful and unique auction items at Furnace Fest 2014! Want a sneak peak?

For the handyman: a two-piece stainless steel ball bearing tool cabinet from Kobalt

For the history buff: a package including a family membership to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, a tour of the WMU Legacy Collection, and a beautiful framed print of historic Kalamazoo

For the gourmet: entertaining accessories from Wine & Whatnot

For the jewelry lover: necklace from Amy Zane, ladies’ watch from Van Sweden Jewelers

For the art lover: photos from Crossed Polars

For the beer lover: a chance to be “Brewmaster for the Day” at Boatyard Brewing Company

For the comedy fan: 2 VIP tickets to a taping of The Daily Show

Joe Wang and the Test Pilots at Furnace Fest 2014!

JWTP logoWe are happy to announce that local favorites  Joe Wang and the Test Pilots will be joining us to perform live at Furnace Fest!  Joe Wang and the Test Pilots is a retro band that doesn’t sound retro. Heavily influenced by 80’s power pop, midwest roots rock and and alt.country, they create a musical sub-genre all it’s own. We are so happy to have their support!

Furnace Fest to Feature the Release of Gimme Shelter Scotch Ale!

Furnace Fest is the place to be on October 10! Be sure to join us at Boatyard Brewing for the release of Gimme Shelter, a Scotch Ale brewed in honor of Community Homeworks. We’ll be tapping the keg at 5:30 pm – stick around for a pint, a delicious wood-fired pizza from Camzie’s Pizza, live music and bidding on fun auction items.


Save the Date – Furnace Fest 2014!

In the middle of a beautiful West Michigan summer it’s hard to think about turning the furnace on – but mark your calendars for Community Homeworks’ Third Annual Furnace Fest!IMG_20140611_143100_930

This year, we are happy to be partnering with Kalamazoo’s newest brewery, Boatyard Brewing Company!432094_201193699980085_836023484_n

Join us on Friday, October 10, at 5 pm

432 E. Paterson, Kalamazoo

Come celebrate our 5th anniversary, get to know us and be the first to taste a special Community Homeworks beer – what kind will it be? We’ll also have some fun silent auction items to bid on and tasty eats from one of Kalamazoo’s great food trucks – we hope you’ll join us for a great evening to support Community Homeworks. Stay tuned and save the date!

Group Volunteer Project with Local Nurses

2014 bronson nurses volunteer day 033On June 18, 2014, a group of four nurses from Bronson Hospital’s Ortho-Surgical Unit and their family members came out to Community Homeworks’ office on Bryant St. to help beautify our block by weeding, landscaping and building a bench to go with our brand new Book Box. The volunteer event was initiated by Tina, who contacted Community Homeworks several weeks ago about group volunteering. Materials for the bench were contributed by the Edison Neighborhood Association’s Go Green Edison project.2014 bronson nurses volunteer day 012

Although the damp weather made extensive outdoor work difficult, the group was able to do some weeding and mulching in our outdoor beds. The big project was constructing the new handmade bench – using reclaimed lumber, the team got to work cutting, planing, and sanding the lumber, assembling, and applying the first coat of varnish.2014 bronson nurses volunteer day 019

Thanks to Tina for her leadership in making this event happen, to Tammy for volunteering her time and construction skills, and to Teresa, Carrie, Tasha, Casey and Megan for your hard work! If you would like to volunteer individually or as part of a group please contact Emily at education@communityhomeworks.org, or call 269.998.3275 (ext. 204). If you want to build your own bench, the plans can be found here; for information on reclaimed lumber and other deconstructed home materials, please contact Tammy Wilson at the Edison Neighborhood Association.

DIY Home Repairs for June

Happy June! The weather is increasingly nicer, and you can celebrate by taking care of your home!

Here are some regular maintenance tasks you can do this month to keep things running smoothly:

  • If you have a tankless water heater, clean its filter. If you have a standard water heater and have not drained it in the past 12 months, do so now.
  • Take a bit of time to test all the shut-off valves in your home (under sinks, behind toilets, etc.).  They should be easy enough to operate in an emergency. This should be done once a year. If you have trouble making the valve turn off, don’t force it—make plans to replace it with a quarter-turn or ball valve model, as these models are less likely to fail.
  • If you haven’t done so already this year, change your lawnmower’s oil.  Be sure to safely dispose of the old oil, as it is considered hazardous waste and should not be poured down the drain or placed in the regular trash. Check the hazardous waste guidelines for Kalamazoo for more information.

Project of the Month: Driveway and Walkway Repairs

pug and concrete

Winter can do a number on your driveways, walkways, patios, and other concrete surfaces. Water that seeps into small holes and cracks in the concrete freezes and expands, which causes the concrete to crack. Salt and other chemicals used to control ice can also damage surfaces.

Now that the weather is better, consider taking a weekend to fix up your driveway, walkway or patio. (Public sidewalks in Kalamazoo must be repaired in consultation with the city; please call (269) 337-8601 for more information.) According to This Old House, resurfacing a 60 square foot driveway will take about an hour and cost about $25-$30; your project time and cost will vary based on the size of your driveway.

Cool Collaboration: Go Green Deconstruction and the Little Library

We are big fans of the Edison Neighborhood Association‘s Go Green Deconstruction Project – by dismantling blighted homes with care, good building material stays out of landfills and can be recycled into projects in the community. Community Homeworks is able to use recycled materials from the warehouse for repair projects for our clients and for teaching materials for our maintenance and repair classes. Kzoo.tv did a nice feature on the project, including how Community Homeworks benefits from it – check it out!

We recently also participated in a fun and creative use of recycled materials from the warehouse – building little free libraries! Organizations around Kalamazoo participated in the project, using materials to build unique book boxes to serve as free lending libraries throughout the Edison Neighborhood. Using a dilapidated cabinet, recycled scrap wood, and his remarkable woodworking skills, volunteer Wes Freeland produced a charming box that will soon be installed in front of the Community Homeworks office. Thank you Wes for your creativity and hard work!

bookbox back

Book Box Back

bookbox front

Book Box Front

Learn more about the Beyond Books project here.