With a recent three-year award from Dominion East Ohio (DEO), CHN will provide 5,700 struggling families with warmer and safer homes over the next three years.
CHN was awarded the contract in early 2015 to offer Dominion’s Housewarming Program to qualifying low-income customers of the utility company. The program provides an in-home energy audit that can result in weatherization services such as whole-house insulation and furnace repair/replacement.
A recent study conducted by CHN shows that, for those receiving comprehensive weatherization through the program, families can expect to reduce their home gas consumption by 34%–equivalent to $336 in annual utility savings (based on 2013 gas rates).
As temperatures dropped to record lows in Northeast Ohio this winter, the Dominion Housewarming program has been critical in preventing low-income families from watching their hard-earned money slip through the cracks.
“What we spend on the home is just the beginning of savings to the client. A lot of these measures will last a long time, particularly with weatherization,” said John Sarver, assistant director of CHN’s energy services programs, noting the region’s high number of uninsulated homes. “This goes to the root cause of the high energy bills.”
CHN has administered the Dominion Housewarming Program for 25 years, partnering with 14 other community development agencies to deliver its energy services to over 28 Ohio counties. CHN pairs the Dominion Housewarming Program with other major energy programs it administers, including the state funded Electric Partnership Program (EPP), First Energy’s Community Connections and Cleveland’s Water Affordability Program, which work hand-in-hand to reduce households’ electricity and water usage. These additional programs cover everything from compact fluorescent bulbs and water conservation kits to energy-efficient appliances such as refrigerators and freezers.
“With 8,000 families served annually through all of our energy programs, the combined savings is quite substantial, particularly for the condition and age of the homes we work on,” said Sarver. “We have many very large homes and our winters are pretty tough here.” In February, Cleveland experienced 10 days of sub-zero temperatures.
“We’ve been able to achieve greater impact for low-income families because of the multiple programs we offer. We strategically integrate energy and weatherization programs to achieve the largest savings for customers,” Sarver said.
Externally, CHN hires certified local inspectors, contractors and vendors to implement its energy programs, which also helps stabilize the local economy. “Our programs help the environment, offset emissions into the atmosphere and support lots of local contractors, which puts jobs into the community,” Sarver said. In addition to their financial benefits, energy improvements can also yield environmental and health-related gains. For instance, research has linked home weatherization to a decrease in asthma attacks.
For CHN client Christine Howard, a weatherization inspection saved her house and possibly even her life. The inspector discovered that Christine’s first floor bathroom was leaking onto her fuse box, posing a major fire risk. Through the Dominion Housewarming Program and other energy services which CHN integrated, Christine received a new high-efficiency furnace, complete home insulation and an electric panel upgrade via First Energy.
CHN’s plans for the energy programs include ramping up efforts to educate clients on keeping their energy costs low and finding additional ways to deliver multiple programs to each eligible home. The goal is to stretch program dollars further and reduce housing costs as much as possible to help families maintain housing stability. “The energy savings we provide allows low-income families to save money, pay other bills and put food on the table, without having to make choices about basic necessities” said Sarver.