In interviews with Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) implementers and agencies, a key programmatic challenge cited was walkaway rates. Walkaways happen when a home is unable to be weatherized due to a structural or health and safety issue, like a hole in the roof, flooding, hoarding and more. WAPs in the Midwest receive their funding largely from two sources, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the State Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Some states receive additional funding from local utilities, but that is not consistent throughout the region.
Working from home, traveling less, educating children from dining room tables, enrolling for classes online and streaming more entertainment: COVID-19 has caused residential energy usage to peak, especially in homes not as efficient as they can be.
In a time when homes double as offices, schools and safe places, energy audits are more important than ever. They are the first step to a more efficient, more comfortable and less expensive home. Largely due to the pandemic, many utility companies across the country have adapted to offer home energy audits completely virtually. This offers a risk free way for families to manage their energy use.
Midwest residential energy efficiency programs have reported shocking deferral rates ranging from 20 to 60% due to health and safety concerns in households, ultimately preventing efficiency upgrades from being completed (Capps, Curry, & Levin, 2019) (NASCSP). In fact, about 6 million households nationwide have moderate to severe home health hazards while about 30 million households—roughly a quarter of all homes in the U.S.—have physical safety hazards, lead-based paint or pests (Kirby, 2017).
With many contractors suffering from a lack of enthusiastic and skilled workers, introducing young people into the energy efficiency industry is crucial. This industry is known for skewing primarily older (and nearing retirement), male, and lacking diversity. Partnering with community organizations that offer training opportunities to under-privileged youth is a great way to bring fresh, new faces into the industry and to encourage a more diverse workforce.
Homeowners are increasingly interested in their homes’ energy use. Whether they want to save money on utility bills, make their living space more comfortable or live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, awareness of energy use in residential buildings is growing. Smart thermostats that allow homeowners better control over their heating and cooling costs have increased in popularity over the years, expected to reach 40 million U.S. homes by 2020.
According to the Weather Channel, the Plains and Midwest states have had the most extreme and record-breaking weather of any region in 2019. From the polar vortex gripping the Midwest and setting at least 340 cold weather records in late January, to the deluge of snow in February, capped off by devastating flooding in March and two snowstorms in April, Midwesterners and the Midwest have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them!
The year 2007 was an unforgettable year for multiple reasons. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (the final book of the series) was released, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Climate Change, and it sparked the start of the subprime mortgage crisis which sent America into the greatest recession since the great depression. But, perhaps more influential than anything else was when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world. The iPhone took the world by storm, completely changing the way society interacts with technology and the way technology interacts with society.
Home energy ratings are experiencing a growing role in energy code compliance. HERS Raters, in particular, often provide third-party verification services for minimum and above-code programs, including traditional compliance pathways contained in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), and more recently the Energy Rating Index (ERI) pathway. In recognition of this trend, the U.S. Department of Energy commissioned a study exploring the consistency and replicability of the HERS system, and in anticipation of HERS Raters assuming a greater role in energy code compliance.