One of yesterday’s posts dealt home energy audits, which can reveal energy leakage leading to the need for proper insulation. As part of President Obama’s stimulus bill, $6.2 billion (US) has been made available for weatherizing existing structures. The money, energy and raw materials required to build new structures often makes renovating extant buildings more feasible on several levels. Providing $6.2 billion for weatherization of low income homes pays off over the long term. Not only will home values rise, but energy costs for residents will be lowered substantially. Business Week’s article discussing the weatherization section of the stimulus bill estimates that for every dollar spent, homeowners will see a $1.65 return. According to the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which began in 1976 to insulate low income homes, there are 6.2 million such residences in the United States. The WAP states that “[b]y reducing the energy bills of low-income families instead of offering aid, weatherization reduces dependency and liberates these funds for spending on more pressing family issues. On average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32% and overall energy bills by about $350 per year at current prices. This spending, in turn, spurs low-income communities toward job growth and economic development.”
Although weatherization may not be as sexy as photovoltaic systems or green roofs, this is the most basic and perhaps pressing need, especially for low income families. Weatherization and other basic changes such as energy efficient lights are commonly referred to as “low hanging fruit.” These issues can be quickly, cheaply, and addressed relatively quickly. Insulating one’s home has immediate payback. In hot, cold or intermediate climates there is always a benefit, namely reducing heating and cooling costs. As mentioned by the WAP, money not used on energy costs becomes savings, a potential investment, or possible spending for consumers.
[Chart courtesy of Reliant Energy]
- Eric Wilson