Government helps create 600,000 energy-efficient homes

The first official freeze of the winter season just descended on Washington, D.C. earlier this week, about three weeks behind schedule. While this has been a nice reprieve for homeowners in the Tri-State area, the mild winter has also given the government an opportunity to winterize more than half a million homes three months ahead of schedule.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that as part of its Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), 600,000 homes had been outfitted with energy-efficient HVAC systems, better insulation and windows that will not leak. The goal of the program is to lower utility bills for low-income families by installing cost-effective energy solutions intended to address energy waste.

WAP – the country's largest residential energy conservation program – is also intended to address general energy waste in buildings, which account for about 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption. The program has helped 6.8 million low-income families to create energy-efficient homes since its inception in 1976, but the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act injected an additional $5 billion in funding that has pushed the WAP to unprecedented levels of success. According to the DOE, the program saves families about $400 in heating and cooling costs in first year, which represents a decrease of about 35 percent.

Low-income homeowners who have yet to realize the benefits of energy efficiency should contact their local weatherization agency to determine whether they are eligible to receive WAP funding. Eligibility hinges primarily on income, although criteria varies state-to-state. Most states will even give preference to those households with elderly residents, children or those with disabilities. Once government officials conduct a thorough home inspection and eligibility is established, work can commence on the home. Average repairs top out at around $6,500.