"Energy Earthshots, U.S. Department of Energy, Affordable Home Energy"

Nearly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to America’s 130 million homes and commercial buildings, which use 40% of the nation’s energy and 75% of its electricity for power, heating, and cooling. But today, buildings waste up to 30% of that energy.

To decarbonize American homes and improve energy affordability nationwide, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the eighth Energy Earthshot™—the Affordable Home Energy Shot™—to accelerate innovative breakthroughs and reduce costs to decarbonize our nation’s residential buildings. Through this Energy Earthshot, DOE aims to reduce the upfront cost of upgrading a home by at least 50% while reducing energy bills by 20% within a decade. Providing affordable, scalable solutions that can upgrade buildings of all types is essential to achieving this bold goal.

    Learn more about DOE’s efforts to decarbonize American homes and improve energy affordability:

    The intent of the Affordable Home Energy Shot is to address the persistent burdens faced by low-income households and communities of color. Nearly one in four households nationwide experience high energy burdens; as a result, more than 20% fell behind on their energy bills in 2022. These trends disproportionately impact lower-income residents who live in older homes that often lack adequate insulation and energy-efficient appliances. Households who report some form of energy insecurity live in homes that are nearly 20% less efficient.

    Ensuring Equitable and Affordable Solutions

    The buildings of the future are here today: 75% of today’s homes will still exist in 2050, making the acceleration of retrofit solutions—new or modified parts or equipment that can be added to existing buildings—the central focus of this Energy Earthshot. By targeting the design barriers most prevalent in affordable housing, this Energy Earthshot will advance retrofit solutions, leading to more efficient, healthy, and resilient homes.

    The Affordable Home Energy Shot directs DOE’s research and development (R&D) resources and strategy to ensure that households in the greatest need—specifically, the 50 million single-family, multifamily, and manufactured homes rented or owned by households earning less than 80% of the area median income—will benefit from decarbonization solutions. With a focus on energy issues within affordable housing, DOE is committed to increasing R&D support in a historically under-resourced sector. In turn, this Energy Earthshot helps ensure that the benefits of the clean energy economy can reach all U.S. communities.

    Affordable Upgrades to Cut Carbon and Costs

    To achieve these goals, DOE is focused on building innovations in three pivotal areas: building upgrades, efficient electrification, and smart controls. DOE’s approach strives to advance scalable technologies and installation solutions for affordable-housing residents while expanding workforce capabilities at the state and local levels.

      Building Upgrades

      Upgrades to the building envelope—the windows, walls, foundations, and roofs—address the livability and comfort of indoor environments, making for healthier and more resilient homes. Energy lost through the building envelope accounts for 70% of the emissions generated locally by our homes.

      Panelized insulation and exterior retrofit techniques, which do not require opening up walls, increase the building’s energy efficiency for heating and cooling while also reducing installation time and cost. Better windows and air sealing can keep outdoor air pollutants from entering the home, improving indoor environmental quality—a particular concern in disadvantaged communities. Making building envelope improvements at the same time as health, safety, and structural upgrades can further minimize disruptions for building occupants. The Affordable Home Energy Shot is exploring innovative retrofit solutions for affordable multifamily, manufactured, and single-family homes, including:

      • Easy-to-install super-insulated retrofit panels
      • Advanced aerosol air and duct sealing
      • Thin triple-pane and aerogel-insulated windows

      Efficient Electrification

      Efficient electrification will improve the affordability, comfort, and performance of low- to moderate-income homes, Expanding access to air-conditioning in communities that don’t have it. Modular, compact appliances can address installation barriers in smaller housing units and help mitigate costly electrical upgrades. Strategic and targeted efficient equipment upgrades will lower utility bills, driving solutions that lessen household energy burdens. Examples of innovations in efficient electrification include:

      • Plug-and-play heating, cooling, and water-heating solutions
      • Low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants
      • Integrated ventilation packages

      Smart Controls

      Smart controls are digital controls that manage home energy use by communicating with the electric utility, lowering electric bills. Smart electric panels can coordinate rooftop solar and battery storage so that homes can maintain power even during widespread power outages. Digital circuit controls can enable separate energy devices to share the same circuit without costly electrical upgrades. Examples of smart control appliances that the Affordable Home Energy Shot may advance include:

      • Smart electric panels and load management
      • Grid interactive technologies
      • Shared circuit control between loads