U.S. DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Optimizes Energy Efficiency and Increases Energy Equity, Health, and Jobs

Across the U.S., a multitude of homes were built before energy-efficient buildings were common, leaving households today with heightened costs and health risks.

Weatherization is the important practice of modifying buildings to optimize energy efficiency and protect interiors from the elements. 

The benefits of weatherization are numerous and compelling. Weatherization reduces energy burdens for families, increases energy equity, creates thousands of jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and stress on the power grid, and, in turn, makes homes more resilient to the effects of climate change. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the country’s single largest residential whole-house energy efficiency program, has operated for 40 years and weatherizes about 35,000 homes every year.

In honor of Weatherization Day 2020, today’s blog post explores the many benefits of weatherization and the WAP, as well as IREC’s related resources and work.

Weatherization Improves Health and Safety

Credit: Graphic from U.S. Department of Energy

Inefficient homes can have a variety of conditions that negatively affect health. These include poor indoor air quality with mold and dust that contribute to allergies and asthma; too cold or too hot temperatures; increased pests; and overall increased risk of exposure to the elements. 

DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)’s improvements are numerous and can include wall, floor, ceiling, attic and foundation insulation; heating and cooling systems repair and replacement; installing programmable thermostats and other HVAC controls; water heater repair and replacements, installation of efficient light sources, and much more.

According to the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), the National WAP Evaluation found that after weatherization, residents missed fewer days of work or school and had lower out-of-pocket medical costs. DOE reports that residents save an average of $514 in out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Especially in current times of COVID-19, an energy-efficient, safe, and comfortable home is critical, particularly for seniors and medically vulnerable people sheltering at home. 

Weatherization Creates Jobs and Benefits the Economy

Weatherization supports more than 8,500 jobs. 

The weatherization workforce industry is highly trained and skilled, using the latest building science. In addition, the WAP is also a workforce development program, which trains and certifies workers in the same low-income communities where homes are being weatherized.

According to DOE, weatherization supports economic development by revitalizing communities, spurring economic growth, and reducing the environmental impact associated with inefficient housing stock.

Weatherization Reduces Energy Burden and Increases Energy Equity

A screenshot from IREC’s Training for WAP Administrative Professionals online course shows how weatherization reduces energy burden.

One of the most important goals of the WAP is to reduce the energy burden for families.

Forty million people in the U.S. live in poverty—12.3 percent of the population. Low-income families tend to spend three to four times as much on energy, and live in housing with heating problems and inadequate insulation. According to the Community Action Partnership, over 20 percent of these households have reported reducing or forgoing necessities such as food and medicine to pay an energy bill. 

Low-income communities, particularly communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by energy burden. Energy efficiency initiatives help to reverse these inequities. Weatherization lowers energy bills, freeing up household income for other necessities.

IREC’s Weatherization Initiatives

IREC plays a key role in quality assurance for energy efficiency training for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Training Centers through our Credentialing Program, which accredits clean energy training providers and certifies instructors and master trainers. 

IREC also supports the WAP by providing online training for thousands of WAP professionals in more than 700 WAP agencies across the country. IREC designed the new Training for WAP Administrative Professionals for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This innovative series of interactive online training modules helps WAP professionals perform their jobs more effectively and increase program quality and impact. The training was developed in partnership with NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

The powerful benefits of weatherization start small—in the home—and grow to benefit the larger economy and environment. With its numerous positive health, economic, and climate impacts, IREC strongly believes weatherization is essential to a 100% renewable energy future.

Learn more about IREC’s Weatherization Assistance Program training at https://wap.litmos.com. Learn more about weatherization and the U.S. DOE’s Program here.