Embracing Energy Efficiency…and Your Utility Bill

By Guest Blogger Alexis Powers, Digital Communications Specialist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Disability Blog, March 03, 2014

A man installing insulation in a home crawl space is shown.

David Poindexter with Veterans Green Jobs puts a moisture
barrier and insulation into the crawl space of a home as
part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Weatherization
Assistance Program. (Image from Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

How do you feel when your monthly utility bill comes in the mail? Excited? Probably not. Curious? Maybe. Nervous? Possibly.

The typical American household spends about $2,000 every year to heat, cool, light and run appliances in the home. Those monthly utility bills can be especially unwelcome for low-income families, who spend about six percent of their total earnings to power basic needs.

Would you like to save about $400 each year with free home energy upgrades, even if you rent or live in a mobile home? Absolutely. For an estimated 20 to 30 million U.S. households, this possibility is a reality through the Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

WAP helps lower heating and cooling costs for low-income families by improving the energy efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety. When applying for weatherization services, the program gives priority to people over 60 years of age, families with one or more members who have a disability and households with children.

Weatherization includes things like adding insulation to the attic and walls, sealing cracks, wrapping the water heater and pipes and installing storm windows. Since 1976, WAP has made energy-saving home improvements like these for more than seven million homes.

Each state is in charge of providing WAP support for its residents, so the process can be different depending on where you live. The best way to find out where to start is to search online for “Weatherization Assistance Program” in your home state. You can also find your state on the WAP Technical Assistance Center map to learn more about access to funding.

If you qualify, a certified inspector will come to your home and figure out what would be the best ways to improve energy efficiency. Trained workers will then do the recommended work that you or your landlord approved. Afterward, an inspector makes sure that your improvements were done well.

Some homes may need more work, while others can be greatly improved with a few minor fixes. Among all types of houses, the average value of WAP energy upgrades is $5,500 per home. Not to worry though. No bill will come in the mail for this service.

Instead, keep your eye out for your next monthly utility bill. What kind of cost savings were made possible with energy efficiency improvements? The answer may surprise you—even delight you. Who would have thought? An energy bill that actually makes you smile.

Find answers to your other questions by visiting the WAP Apply for Weatherization Assistance page, the WAP Technical Assistance Center or the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) website.

Alexis Powers is a writer, editor and web specialist for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). She has supported the Solar Decathlon, SunShot Initiative and Wind and Water Power communications teams in roles ranging from content creator to presentation developer and podcaster to web traffic analyst. Alexis loves finding impactful ways to showcase NREL and DOE accomplishments in renewable energy. If it were possible to harness enthusiasm, Alexis hypothetically estimates that her energy offset would be equivalent to planting 72 trees and taking 14 cars off the road.

Note: For more information on the Kansas Weatherization Assistance Program visit the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation website at: http://www.kshousingcorp.org/weatherization.aspx. To apply for assistance in Topeka and northeast Kansas contact Community Action, Inc. at 785-235-9296 or 1-800-792-7056.


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