Efficiency programs can expand by leveraging health-focused funding

(ACEEE blog, 14 Jul 2020) Home weatherization can improve people’s health, yet efficiency programs operate nearly in isolation from public health efforts. A new ACEEE report shows how efficiency programs can leverage federal funding focused on health—potentially as much as $2 billion annually—to expand their offerings and serve more people.

“Programs to improve home energy efficiency are in many respects already public health efforts—though we often don’t realize it,” says Sara Hayes, director of ACEEE’s health and environment program and a report co-author. “We focus on utilities and the federal weatherization program to fund efficiency work, but we should also be looking to funding from the health sector.”

Better insulating a home and sealing it from the outdoors can reduce indoor air contaminants and help control moisture and mold. As a result, these improvements can reduce some asthma symptoms and upper respiratory risks. Efficiency measures also reduce exposure to extreme temperatures, which are especially dangerous for infants and older adults. In-home programs can provide complementary services that can help identify and mitigate an even wider range of in-home health threats such as carbon monoxide exposure, fall hazards, respiratory irritants and other asthma triggers, fire risk, radon, lead, and more.

The U.S. Department of Energy funds the Weatherization Assistance Program, contributing to improvements in the health of participants. But funding from other federal agencies aimed at improving public health has generally not been leveraged to support in-home energy efficiency efforts, though several of these federal programs clearly allow funds to be used in this way.

This new ACEEE report identifies six federal programs that could potentially fund in-home energy efficiency efforts.

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ACEEE blog, 14 Jul 2020: Efficiency programs can expand by leveraging health-focused funding