On December 15, 2011 the United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced their achievement of weatherizing more than 600,000 U.S. homes three months ahead of schedule – including 125,000 multi-family homes such as apartment buildings. DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was designed to reduce energy waste in low-income homes throughout the country. Original plans sought completion of these energy retrofits by March2012.
Simple energy efficient improvements such as air-sealing, insulation, and more efficient heating and cooling systems can help low-income families reduce their energy consumption by up to 35 percent. These savings can translate to more than $400 on heating and cooling bills within the first year. Altogether, the 600,000 completed homes are estimated to save over $320 million per year.
Buildings account for 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions and energy consumption. Energy efficiency retrofits will reduce national energy consumption and improve our energy security. In addition, DOE has developed several other initiatives that will make home energy audits, energy efficiency experts, and building retrofit guidelines more easily accessible for workers and residents. DOE also provides training on the latest techniques. These incentives have helped revive and sustain local markets through purchases of supplies and materials from neighborhood businesses. Home energy improvements are helping to grow the domestic building retrofit industry while creating jobs that cannot be outsourced.
In February 2011 EESI hosted a briefing on state energy programs and their economic impacts. WAP was featured prominently, which by then had weatherized 300,000 homes and created an estimated 15,439 jobs. John Cora of the Kentucky Housing Corporation, speaking on the benefits of WAP, said that home energy costs absorb 47.7 percent of income for the 105,000 families in Kentucky that live below 50 percent of the poverty level. That compares to 14.4 percent for low income families and only 3.3 percent for middle class families. Cora said, “We are embracing the administration's mission to create meaningful jobs quickly while simultaneously assisting the most vulnerable citizens in our community.”