Weatherization Assistance Program from the U.S. Department of Energy
Since the Weather Assistance Program’s inception in 1976, more than 6 million low income families have benefitted from home improvements that not only help make their energy costs more manageable, but also reduce national energy dependency, improve the environment, and encourage economic growth in poor communities.
The Weatherization Assistance Program works with various service providers to install energy-efficient upgrades for qualifying homeowners at no cost. While these are not extravagant improvements—the average spending limit is $6,500 per household—they are effective and generally pay for themselves in just a few years. The Department of Energy monitors the energy savings and compares them to program costs to ensure that spending and value are proportionate.
Weatherization has an impact greater than just helping low-income families save money. The same initiatives that have been part of the Weatherization Assistance Program for decades have helped spawn an entire industry sector dedicated to green construction measures. Energy-efficient construction employs thousands and many of the improvements that have become standard practice in the industry were first developed as part of the Weatherization Assistance Program. In fact, the weatherization program continues to lead testing and advancements in home energy efficiency, making these upgrades more readily available to us all.
The Department of Energy distributes federal dollars to individual states to fund Weatherization Assistance Program initiatives, but each state is charged with setting rules and guidelines for eligibility. States also select Weatherization Assistance Program service providers and review performance for quality. There are more than 900 state and non-profit agencies that make up the nation’s weatherization network.
Many of us have heard of home weatherization—which involves inexpensive improvements like replacing weather stripping around windows and doors—but the services and upgrades offered through the Weatherization Assistance Program are a bit different. The program’s focus is on low-cost solutions to high energy bills. This involves things like heating and cooling systems, electrical systems, and appliances. The Weatherization Assistance Program looks at the whole residence and tries to identify the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency.
Because many of the homes and multi-family dwellings the Weatherization Assistance Program serves are also aging and in need of repair, the weatherization program is concerned with the overall safety of each project. Every major energy system is thoroughly checked for safety before and after installation.
The Weatherization Assistance Program takes a comprehensive approach to green and energy-efficient renovations and upgrades. Each property is subjected to a sophisticated and individualized analysis that takes all aspects of the building’s structure into account. The goal is to maximize energy efficiency while controlling costs and making a difference in the high cost of utilities for struggling families. This approach has also helped drive the scientific advances in energy-efficient and eco-friendly initiatives that have become a hallmark of the Weatherization Assistance Program and have spread to other sectors of the home construction industry.