Summary

Houston's retrofitting program has dramatically reduced the consumption of energy in 641 homes in poorer communities through simple energy efficiency improvements, such as weather stripping windows and doors, insulating attics and hot water pipes, and caulking windows. It has cut 1,100 tons CO2e emissions and improved the lives of many families, saving them $870 USD annually.

What is it?

Home improvements that stop the cold and heat from entering homes, improving the quality of life of residents, reducing energy consumption, electricity bills and CO2 emissions.

Energy efficiency

Since the implementation of the project, the Council's energy consumption has been reduced by 48.6%.

How does it work? 

In March 2006, the City of Houston began piloting free energy efficiency improvements in the community of Pleasantville, a poorer area of the City. Here, homes were built predominantly in the 1950s and 60s and as a result of these designs, were costly to heat and cool. While homeowners in this low-income community found it difficult to self-finance energy improvements, the community was receptive to energy and cost savings because of its 90% home ownership.

The city partnered with CenterPoint, its' electricity distribution company, and offered free energy efficiency retrofits to low-income families. The Utility hired contractors to do the work. Most retrofits consisted of simple and easy interventions, such as:

  • caulking windows
  • insulating
  • weather stripping

CenterPoint Energy and Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), then partnered to retrofit a further 100 homes. HARC has collected data from the program demonstrating that weatherization is one of the best choices to improve the energy efficiency of these homes. The program delivered major benefits to minority populations and the aged, with a 21% savings on electricity bills averaging $1,060 USD annually.

Cost

The weatherization measures installed by the contractors cost approximately $1,000 per house, paid by CentrePoint. Payback periods are approximately 2 years and effects have been significant.

Savings

Pleasantville showed a 1,743,931 kWh savings during the last half of 2006, which translates to a reduction of 1,100 tons of CO2 per year.
610 homes in Pleasantville were weatherized by May 31, 2006
Average savings per home was $435.00 over a six month period, or $870 annually.

Next steps

The City is scaling up the Weatherization Assistance Program dramatically. Expanding to 100,000 houses would cost $2,000 per retrofit – a total of $200 million. A less dramatic but constructive expansion would cost between 4 and 5 million dollars per year, some of which will come from utilities. Inclusion of heating and cooling systems would lead to even more dramatic savings.

Lindale Park and Scott Terrace are the next neighborhoods to be weatherized under this program. 525 residents have already applied for the program from these areas, 255 homes have been evaluated and/or weatherized. The goal is to weatherize an additional 1,000 homes by May 31, 2007.

Educational website to encourage the people to weatherize their own homes

Application

  • It is a simple process that has immediate benefits - reducing energy consumption, reducing energy bills, improving the quality of life for residents by ensuring warmer/cooler homes;
  • It can be done in an affordable way, using existing budgets and staff expertise, and funding through private partnerships.