"Weatherization"-The Mission & Opportunity
Stimulus for Homes: Obama's $5 Billion Weatherization Plan
President Obama and Congress just pumped $5 billion into the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), a 30-year-old branch of the Department of Energy that provides weatherization services to low-income families. Weatherization-which typically means to adding insulation and caulking in old buildings-is an important, low-hanging fruit to pick in the name of U.S. energy efficiency. Our homes consume 40 percent of our energy nationwide, and, as energy guru and PM Breakthrough Award-winnerAmory Lovins says, "It is cheaper to save electricity than to make it." Increasing the efficiency of old homes reduces fossil-fuel consumption, creates jobs and encourages the brightest and the best to become contractors who make developments efficient and-long lasting-the first time.
From the government's perspective, energy efficiency in homes can be increased by insulating exterior walls, caulking points of air infiltration and replacing appliances, like older energy-guzzling refrigerators as well as inefficient heaters and air conditioners. The process is nothing new-over the past 30 years the Department of Energy has divvied up an annual pile of cash between the 50 states, weatherizing some 5.6 million homes in the process. The amount of funding each state receives depends on a formula that accounts for population and the number of heating and cooling days per year. The government determines which homes qualify for weatherization via a state-by-state calculation based on the home's income compared to federal poverty levels. The poverty level for a family of four is $21,200, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. A family of four living in New Jersey qualifies if earning less than 225 percent of the federal poverty level, or $47,700; a family of four in Texas would only be eligible if the combined income was under 125 percent of the poverty level, or $26,500.
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will bring unprecedented amounts of funding to weatherization-$5 billion, to be exact. With more funding and guideline changes, state officials say they expect that more homeowners will be eligible for weatherization services and thus able to apply for assistance with the DOE.
The new level of funding, Congress estimates, will weatherize one million more homes. "The states will receive anywhere between approximately 10 to 30 times as much as they received last year."