A weatherization assistance program is a program designed to provide low-income families with assistance on lowering energy bills. In the US, the Weatherization Assistance Program is a US Department of Energy (DOE) endeavor, established in 1976. The program's goal is to advance weatherization across the United States.
Weatherization is the application of energy efficiency measures in homes and buildings. Energy efficiency measures paid for upfront usually result in future savings. The DOE determines these savings by tracking and comparing energy costs over time.
Weatherization may include insulation upgrades, sealing doors and windows, and installing energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems. Most home weatherization upgrades are inexpensive, but highly effective in lowering energy costs. Low-income families cannot always afford the services, however.
In theory, savings are offered in place of aid. The Weatherization Assistance Program reduces energy bills of low-income households, thereby giving these families more income to spend on other necessities. According to the DOE, weatherizing a home reduces heating bills by 32%. When that saved money is spent in low-income communities, job growth is encouraged and economic development continues.
Each state runs its own weatherization program following federal mandates. The DOE provides funding, but the states determine who qualifies for assistance. The DOE offers the states information through their Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (WAPTAC) online. The WAPTAC publishes federal rules that govern state, tribal government, and weatherization agency administration.
Eligibility guidelines are also offered online through the WAPTAC. The DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) states that between 20 and 30 million US families are eligible for Weatherization Assistance Program funding. Each state's weatherization agency handles energy services.
Citizens receiving Supplemental Security Income or aid for dependent children are automatically eligible. Residents over age 60, families who have a member with a disability and, in most states, families with children receive preference. Income is a major factor in determining eligibility, and incomes falling below certain standards are eligible for weatherization services, depending on the state criteria used. Some states consider their median income and set eligibility at a certain percentage of that amount. The DOE puts out poverty income guidelines each year.
After applying and receiving eligibility confirmation, homeowners or renters, with landlord approval, receive an energy consultation. A professional energy consultant analyzes energy bills, tests for air entering through doors, and inspects equipment. Working from that list, workers complete the energy conservation measures and the resident signs off on the work.
The energy efficiency movement of today is in part a result of the Weatherization Assistance Program. The program has served over 6.2 million low-income families in the US since its inception. A number of other countries have weatherization programs in place to improve the energy efficiency of homes in their nations.