Home ownership is a big part of the American dream. A door, four walls, and a roof may satisfy the definition of a “house,” but the concept of a “home” promises much more. It’s a vision of a safe, healthy, energy-efficient space to live and raise a family.
The Energy Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) has been hard at work helping many American families realize this dream in the most energy-efficient and comfortable home possible. August 14, 2016 officially marks the 40th anniversary of this program, which has retrofitted more than 7 million homes across the country.
WAP is considered the nation’s oldest and largest whole-house energy efficiency program. WAP serves families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. It emphasizes service to families with children, seniors, and disabled individuals. For a family of four to receive these valuable services, its household income must be less than $48,500.
WAP services every political subdivision in the country through a network of 59 grantees: 50 states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and three select Native American tribes. These grantees contract with a network of almost 800 community action agencies, nonprofits, and local governments to install cost- effective energy conservation measures in homes.
A 2015 national evaluation attested to program’s achievements in helping Americans reduce utility bills and carbon emissions, while promoting economic development. The peer-reviewed study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory determined that a weatherized single-family home saves an average of $283 annually in energy costs. The study also found that in a typical year of WAP operations, carbon emissions fell by more than 2 million metric tons, and 8,500 jobs were supported.
One area where WAP is making a difference is in Alaska, a state where residential electricity costs are 60% more than the national average. In the village of Egegik, for example, local weatherization providers and grantees implemented significant improvements at single-family homes, achieving as much as $2,000 in savings and a 30% reduction in energy consumption.
Success stems from employing the most qualified and trained workers in the program. Beginning in 2015, every home weatherized by WAP throughout the country must be inspected by a professionally certified quality control inspector. This certification is the only professional credential for individuals providing quality control services to the Weatherization and Home Performance industry. It ensures that an individual can adequately inspect energy upgrades by conducting a methodological audit/inspection of the building, performing safety and diagnostic tests, and observing the work.
Since 1976, WAP has led the nation in advancing technology, research, and applied scientific practices to make homes energy efficient, cost-effective, and safe for low-income residents. The installed measures deliver substantial energy reductions and energy-cost savings for families, and the program has moved the entire home performance industry forward.