EERE Success Story Reducing the Energy Burden for Elderly and Homes that Previously Could Not Receive Weatherization Services

Posted by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on September 17, 2019
EERE Success Story  Reducing the Energy Burden for Elderly and Homes that Previously Could Not Receive Weatherization Services
Before and After Removal of Vermiculite Insulation. Photos Courtesy:West Central Minnesota Communities Action, Inc.

Minnesota's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has made strides in reducing the energy burden and providing a healthier home environment for low-income households in the state. Between July 2017 and June 2018, the agency provided weatherization services for more than 2,000 homes across the state. The state's WAP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce which receives annual funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's (EERE) Weatherization Assistance Program.

Implementing energy-saving improvements in a home can reduce energy costs and keep homes safer and more livable. An 82-year-old WAP client resident of Minneapolis, received weatherization services on his home, which was built in 1900. The process began with an energy audit, followed by weatherization services that included a new furnace, water heater, attic insulation and air-sealing, and a programmable thermostat.

Without weatherization assistance, blowing insulation in the attic would have been a challenge because of the high removal costs of vermiculite. Vermiculite removal requires a qualified contractor to dispose of the mineral in accordance with state and local rules and regulations. After the vermiculite was removed, the home could receive the much-needed insulation to help reduce energy costs. The WAP client was tremendously grateful for all the work done in his home. Before the energy improvements, his home was cold and drafty, said the WAP client. But now it is much more comfortable and safe, and he is saving more than $20 a month on his heating bills.

The Minnesota WAP also started Healthy AIR (Asbestos Insulation Remediation), a pilot program to expand the positive impacts of weatherization across the state. Melissa Feine, a weatherization coordinator for Semcac, a community action agency that provides weatherization services through the Healthy AIR program, stated: “Our Healthy AIR clients are so grateful, because their homes are rid of asbestos, their utility bills drop, and their health and comfort level rises.”

EERE's Weatherization Assistance Program reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes while ensuring their health and safety. The program supports 8,500 jobs and provides weatherization services to approximately 35,000 homes every year using DOE funds. Through weatherization improvements, these households save on average $283 or more every year according to a national evaluation of the program. Since the program began in 1976, WAP has helped improve the lives of more than 7 million families through weatherization services.

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