Tailgate: Ben Cichowski, Video Host - Fine Homebuilding Article
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Tailgate: Ben Cichowski, Video Host

The host of WxTV is one member of a Montana team bringing weatherization and energy-efficiency lessons to your desktop.

What is WxTV?

WxTV is a broadcast-quality web show highlighting the latest developments in weatherization. The show takes you stepby- step through new rules, weatherization techniques, green products, and just about anything else that might be of interest to weatherization and other green-collar professionals. WxTV is webcast through the Montana Weatherization Training Center website at http://wxtvonline.org and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/thewxtv.

Was it a stretch to become the on-camera host for WxTV?

I was a biology teacher and adjunct instructor at Texas A&M for a few years, and I’ve been teaching in one form or another since I moved to Montana, including some classroom teaching for the weatherization guys. In a way, this is an extension of that.

We’re pretty animated folks around here, and we like to goof around and have fun. The guy who really does all this WxTV stuff is Vince Cusomato. He’s behind the scenes, and I’m the one on camera. It certainly helps that we’ve been good friends for quite a few years now. The jump to being in front of a camera with him behind it wasn’t all that tough.

How do you develop topics at WxTV?

Some topics are from our audience. Some requests come from the Department of Energy. They monitor weatherization nationwide and figure out what things people are doing well and what they might need improvement on. The majority came from our weatherization curriculum.

You’re also doing a lot more than covering weatherization.

We definitely don’t want to limit our audience just to weatherization folks. I think that the principles extend to lighting and things like air-sealing and having enough insulation in your attic. We’d like to move into some of the green energies a bit more. We touched on it with solar PV, some of the solar hot-water stuff, and wind.

Have you made a big effort to cover climate areas away from Montana?

Yes. When we wrote up the proposal to do WxTV, we hammered home the fact that it was going to be a national project and not a Montana-specific one.

We don’t have the budget to travel to each location with our whole setup, so a good bit of footage comes from camera kits we send out. We guide folks in how to use them. Then Vince cuts all that together here and turns it into a show.

Your episode set in the Pacific Islands is interesting.

The DOE had asked us to do a lead-safety class in Hawaii, and we thought it was a perfect opportunity. That experience was an eye opener. They’re dealing with 29¢ a kwh for electricity, so a few simple weatherization steps make an enormous difference in their cost of living and how much money they have available to live.

What kind of feedback are you getting?

What we’re getting—and I’d love to get more of it—is feedback saying, “We do it differently” or “We like doing it this way,” then getting a discussion going on the blogs with each episode.

We never intended it to be a complete training program. It’s supplemental videos that folks can take a look at and hopefully pick up a few tips from.

What are some easy steps to make a house more energy efficient?

I asked everyone at WxTV for input on this question. As I suspected, everybody had a different idea.

The big one would be just being active in the way you’re conserving or using energy in your home. If it’s hot and the sun is blazing, drop the blinds and block some of that radiation. Use light and solar energy to their best ability.

Another simple thing is CFLs. They’ve gotten a lot of negative attention for various reasons, but the experts on the lighting video put some of those questions to rest in my own head.

One of the main points everybody brought up is that it’s hard to just pick out a couple because for one home, you may do something that helps a lot, but if you apply that same measure somewhere else, it may not do anything or could even have a negative effect.

With weatherization, we want to analyze the house scientifically, figure out where the problems are, and start with the low-hanging fruit. What’s inexpensive? What’s going to make a big difference? They may not be the sexiest things, but they are things that work.
Photo: courtesy of Montana State University
From Fine Homebuilding221 , pp. 106
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