Everyone has a responsibility to become “greener” by cutting down on carbon emissions. Becoming more energy efficient also assists low-income households by cutting down on monthly bills. Unfortunately, low-income often means a lack of financial resources with which to start the efficiency upgrade process.
Fortunately, many states have home energy assistance programs to help low-income homeowners become more efficient with free or reduced-cost services involving HVAC tune-ups, installation of energy-efficient home appliances, and weatherization. The first steps in this process often involve home energy audits by home energy professionals.
These home energy efficiency assistance programs help low-income home owners reduce monthly energy bills on a long-term basis by making homes more efficient, as well as helping meet their duty to the environment in a way that they could not afford to do otherwise.
Some states and cities have better home energy efficiency assistance programs in place than others. Here is a list of some of the best.
The Golden State is working toward an ambitious goal of reaching zero net energy by 2020 for all residential buildings. To achieve that goal, they have launched several home energy assistance programs, including the California Hub for Energy Efficiency Financing (CHEEF). CHEEF helps single-family homes get the loan capital needed for home energy-efficient retrofits and improvements. Low-income families often have trouble accessing affordable loan options and CHEEF is a big help.
Across the country, in Massachusetts, a network of public utilities, government organizations, community action agencies, and private and public housing owners, joined together to create the Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN.) LEAN provides efficiency solutions to low-income homeowners.
Boston is also a leader when it comes to helping homeowners upgrade their homes. Many of the programs and incentives offered by the state, municipalities, and utilities are targeted at making sure low-income residents are not left out of the green energy revolution. The Low-Income Core Initiative provides energy efficiency measures like water efficiency, lighting fixtures, and repairing or replacing heating systems at no cost to those who meet income requirements.
Both CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy in Minnesota offer a variety of low-income efficiency programs that provide services such as energy recovery ventilation, health and safety measures, inefficient furnace replacement, window/wall air conditioners, water efficiency measures, door and attic hatch weather-stripping, and compact fluorescent light bulb installation.
NW Natural in Portland offers a Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program to customers in both Washington and Oregon. It targets households with children, high-energy users, and elderly residents with measures such as duct sealing, faucet aerators, and pipe insulation.
Portland General Electric partners with the federal Weatherization Assistance Program to provide a Multifamily Low-Income Weatherization Program that gives priority to households with a high energy burden, families with children under age 6, and people with disabilities.
The PGE program includes measures such as water-saving kits, appliance upgrades, heating duct improvement, furnace repair and replacement, insulation, and energy conservation education.
Texas Gas Service in Austin provides free installation of new and replacement water heaters, ranges, and furnaces, as well as several other free services to customers on incomes that are either moderate or fixed.
Austin Energy offers a weatherization program that includes services such as air conditioning tune-ups, duct system repairs and replacements, LED lighting, water conservation, health and safety devices like carbon monoxide detectors, solar screens, attic insulation and other energy efficiency measures. The weatherization program is just one in a portfolio of low-income efficiency programs.
What does your state have to offer?
Even if you do not live in one of the states listed above or you do not have the financial resources to hire home energy professionals to perform a home energy audit and make the suggested upgrades, there are other similar programs available through the federal government. One of these programs is the Weatherization Assistance Program from the Department of Energy, which assists individuals and families in need, both owners and renters and no matter the type of home, to improve energy performance.