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Question:

Do you know of any evaluations of low-income weatherization assistance programs?

Answer:

Here are some reports and sources to search further, many from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

General Information

The Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center Document Library Administrative Management folder has an Evaluation category.

Newer Reports

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. National Evaluation Of The Weatherization Assistance Program During The ARRA Period: Program Years 2009-2011. 2012. ORNL/TM-2011/546.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Memorandum Background Data And Statistics. 2010. ORNL/TM-2010-66.

Impact Evaluation of the 2009 California Low-Income Energy Efficiency Program, and, Appendices, a report by ECONorthwest and others for the California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division. Reports from earlier years and other similar reports are also available at the CALMAC website. Searches may be filtered by the low income publication type.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Analyses To Verify And Improve The Accuracy Of The Manufactured Home Energy Audit (MHEA). 2008. ORNL/CON-506. Differences between estimated and actual energy savings are discussed.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Texas Field Experiment: Performance of the Weatherization Assistance Program in Hot-Climate, Low-Income Homes. ORNL/CON-499. 2008.

Validation of the Manufactured Home Energy Audit (MHEA). 2007. ORNL/CON-501.

DOE. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Evaluation of a Multifamily Retrofit in Climate Zone 5, a Building America Case Study. 2013.

Older Reports

Bonneville Power Administration Index of Technical Reports on Program Evaluation.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Estimating The National Effects Of The U.S. Department Of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program With State-Level Data: A Metaevaluation Using Studies From 1993 To 2005. , 2005. ORNL/CON-493. The national Weatherization Assistance Program, sponsored by DOE and implemented by state and local agencies throughout the U.S., weatherizes homes for low-income residents in order to increase their energy efficiency and lower utility bills. Staff at ORNL performed a metaevaluation of this program using data from studies of weatherization efforts in 19 different states that were completed between 1993 and 2005.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Weatherizing the Homes of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program Clients: A Programmatic Assessment, by B. Tonn. Sep 16, 2002. ORNL/CON-486. The purpose of this project was to assess the relationships between two federal programs that support low income households, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The specific question addressed by this research is: what impact does weatherizing homes of LIHEAP recipients have on the level of need for LIHEAP assistance? The expectation is that the level of need will decrease. If this is the case, then it can be argued that a non-energy benefit of WAP is the reduction in the level of need for LIHEAP assistance for households receiving weatherization assistance.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Nonenergy Benefits from the Weatherization Assistance Program: A Summary of Findings from the Recent Literature by Martin Schweitzer. Apr 25, 2002. ORNL/CON-484. For this review, nonenergy benefits were broken into three major categories: (1) ratepayer benefits, (2) household benefits, and (3) societal benefits.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. State-level evaluations of the Weatherization Assistance Program in 1990--1996: A metaevaluation that estimates national savings by Linda Berry. Aug 1997. CONF-970868--2. DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program (the Program) is implemented in all fifty states. The most recent comprehensive national evaluation of the Program was based on an analysis of changes in pre- and post-weatherization energy consumption for homes weatherized in 1989. The national evaluation estimated average savings for several fuel types. For dwellings that heated primarily with natural gas, which made up over 50% of the sample, average savings per dwelling were 17.3 MBtu, which was 18.3% of space heating consumption, or 13.0% of the total consumption of natural gas for all end users.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Key findings of the national weatherization evaluation by Marilyn Brown and Linda Berry. Oct 1994. CONF-9406309—1 (18 pages) In 1990, DOE sponsored a comprehensive evaluation of its Weatherization Assistance Program. The primary goal of the evaluation was to establish whether the program meets the objectives of its enabling legislation and fulfills its mission statement—to reduce the heating and cooling costs for low-income families, particularly the elderly, persons with disabilities, and children by improving the energy-efficiency of their homes and ensuring their health and safety. This document summarizes findings of the evaluation which included 5 studies: (1) Network Study—characterized the weatherization network`s leveraging, capabilities, procedures, staff, technologies, and innovations; (2) Resources and Population Study— profiled low-income weatherization resources, the weatherized population, and the population remaining to be served; (3) Multifamily Study—described the nature and extent of weatherization activities in larger multifamily buildings; (4) Single-family Study—estimated the national savings and cost-effectiveness of weatherizing single-family and small multifamily dwellings that use natural gas or electricity for space heating; (5) Fuel-Oil Study—estimated the savings and cost-effectiveness of weatherizing single-family homes, located in nine northeastern states, that use fuel oil for space heating.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Weatherization Works: Final Report of the National Weatherization Evaluation by Marilyn A Brown, Linda G. Berry, and Laurence F. Kinney. Sep 1994. ORNL/CON-395 (67 pages). This document summarizes the findings of the evaluation described above. The evaluation concludes that the program meets the objectives of its enabling legislation and fulfills its mission statement. Specifically, it saves energy, lowers fuel bills, and improves the health and safety of dwellings occupied by low-income people. In addition, the program achieves its mission in a cost-effective manner based on each of three perspectives employed by the evaluators. Finally, the evaluation estimates that the investments made in 1989 will, over a 20-year lifetime, save the equivalent of 12 million barrels of oil, roughly the amount of oil added to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in each of the past several years.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Low-Income DSM Programs: Methodological Approach To Determining The Cost-Effectiveness Of Coordinated Partnerships by Marilyn A. Brown and Lawrence J. Hill. May 1994. ORNL/CON-375. The objective of this study is to develop a methodological approach to estimate the cost-effectiveness of coordinated low-income DSM programs, given the special features that distinguish these programs from other utility-operated DSM programs. The general approach used was to: 1. select six coordinated low-income DSM programs from among those currently operating across the U.S., 2. examine the main features of these programs, and 3. determine the conceptual and pragmatic problems associated with estimating their cost-effectiveness. Three types of coordination between government and utility cosponsors were identified. At one extreme, local agencies operate "parallel" programs, each of which is fully funded by a single sponsor (e.g., one funded by DOE and the other by a utility). At the other extreme are highly "coupled" programs that capitalize on the unique capabilities and resources offered by each co-sponsor to deliver weatherization services as part of an integrated effort. In between are "supplemental" programs that utilize resources to supplement the agency's government-funded weatherization, with no changes to the operation of that program.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Field Test Evaluation of Conservation Retrofits of Low-Income Single-Family Buildings in Wisconsin: Summary Report by Mark P. Ternes. July 1988. ORNL/CON-228/P1. During the winter of 1985-86, a retrofit field test was performed in 66 occupied, low-income, single-family homes in Madison, Wisconsin. The primary objectives of the field test were to 1. determine the measured energy savings and the relative benefits of a combination of envelope and mechanical equipment retrofits that were selected following a new audit-directed retrofit procedure, 2. determine the energy savings and benefits due to performing infiltration reduction work following a recently developed infiltration reduction procedure, and 3. study general occupant behavior and house thermal characteristics and their possible change following retrofit installation. This report provides an overview of the project and summarizes the findings.

Journal Articles

"Energy Conservation for Low-Income Households: A Study of the Organization and Outcomes of Weatherization Assistance Programs" by Martin Schweitzer. Energy Systems and Policy. 1988.Vol.12, Iss. 2; pg. 101, 17 pgs. Your local library should be able to borrow this and the following two articles for you.

"Implementation and Effectiveness of State-Administered, Federally Funded Energy Conservation Programs" by John Randolph. Energy Systems and Policy. 1985. Vol.9, Iss. 1; pg. 49, 40 pgs.

"Making cold homes warmer: The effect of energy efficiency improvements in low-income homes." Geoffrey Milne, Brenda Boardman. Energy Policy. Jun 2000. Vol.28, Iss. 6,7; pg. 411.

This report presents a more negative perspective, at least from the viewpoint of relieving or reducing poverty:

  • Paid But Unaffordable: The Consequences of Energy Poverty in Missouri, May 2004. National Low-Income Energy Consortium. Prepared By Roger D. Colton, Fisher, Sheehan & Colton. 34 Warwick Road, Belmont, MA 02478 617-484-0597 http://www.fsconline.com. Excerpt below from pp 71-72:

    Generating additional funding for bill assistance is certainly not the only needed energy assistance. Weatherization, for example, can be an effective tool to use in reducing low-income energy needs for many, but not all, households. Weatherization improves affordability by increasing the efficiency of energy usage and thus decreasing energy bills.

    Like fuel assistance, however, weatherization has substantial limitations to its effectiveness. It is inadequately funded. Federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) dollars will never be adequate to provide services to all eligible low-income homes needing weatherization within a reasonable period of time. According to the National Association for State Community Service Programs (NASCSP), Missouri weatherized roughly 6,200 housing units in the three years 1999 through 2001 (the most recent data available).

    Number of Weatherized Units (1999–2001): Missouri

    1999 2000 2001 3-Year Total
    2,099 1,838 2,248 6,185

    SOURCE: National Association for State Community Service Programs.

    In contrast, the Home Energy Affordability Gap study found that Missouri has nearly 115,000 households living with income below 50% of the Federal Poverty Level. An additional 70,000 58 live with incomes between 50% and 75% of Poverty, while 80,000 more live with incomes between 75% and 100% of Poverty. As can be seen, even limiting consideration to households below Poverty Level, weatherization makes only a small dent in the statewide needs of low-income households.

    Finally, for some households with very low-incomes, no amount of weatherization will be able to bring their bills low enough to be an affordable energy burden. The energy poverty crisis facing low-income households is not a problem that can be addressed by increasing weatherization funds alone. The home energy burdens faced by low-income households are not simply a function of high energy bills, but instead are a function of the interplay between energy bills and income. While weatherization unquestionably plays an important role in helping to address energy poverty issues, even if given unlimited funding, weatherization alone would be inadequate to redress the mismatch between household home energy expenses and household resources available to pay those expenses.

    One additional energy efficiency strategy that is a component of WAP and some state-funded programs involves energy education. While proven to reduce energy consumption, energy education activities, like weatherization, represent valuable components in any response to energy poverty, but they cannot be a substitute for direct bill payment assistance.

Topic: Building Envelope--General
Topic: Utility Companies--DSM/Market Transformation
Topic: Conservation Program Management--Evaluation
Sector: Residential
Content Type: Q&A
Keywords: weatherizing, weatherize, program evaluation, program assessment, Weatherization Assistance Program
ID:  4401