Summary

In 2006 the City of Houston decided to implement a “neighborhood by neighborhood” energy efficiency program targeted at low income, hard to reach homeowners to reduce kWh consumption by weatherizing their households.  The program has focused on neighbourhoods that have median household incomes of less than $40,000/year, residences less than 2000 square feet and built prior to 1965.

What is it?

Weatherizing is a means to reduce heat exchange with surrounding environment.  In warmer climates with mild winters, the goal is to prevent cool air form escaping the home.  By reducing heat exchange, less energy is needed to cool to the interior and ultimately emissions are reduced.

How does it work?

Simple steps can be taken to reduce heat exchange.  Sealing cracks, gaps, holes especially around doors, windows, pipes, electrical outlets and other areas with high potential for heat loss using caulk, foam sealant, weather-stripping, window film, door sweeps and receptacle gaskets.  Installing drains or membranes can protect the home from both surface water and ground water.  Weatherizing also provides proper ventilation to unconditioned spaces to protect the home from the effects of condensation.

Next steps

Currently, the City is on track to renovate approximately 4000 homes per year.  However, the City of Houston’s General Services Department recently testified before the House Select Committee in Federal Economic Stabilization Funding for $30 million in ARRA funds to weatherize an additional 30,000 homes in two years.  With this funding, the City would not only increase the energy efficiency of the low-income housing stock, but also create and maintain jobs and reduce emissions even further.

Application

Weatherizing can be applied to any household new and old.  Materials are relatively inexpensive and costs are recuperated fairly quickly.  Energy savings can range from 12% to 20%, or an average $335 energy savings per home over a six month period compared to the previous year.  Maintenance is low and can be installed by the home owner.

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