A major retrofit with an eye toward energy efficiency, including energy efficient heating, new windows, installing LED bulbs, improving insulation, replacing roofs and taking other actions to seal the thermal envelope can cut home energy use at least in half, according to an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) study. Residential energy usage averages about 10,632 kWh annually per customer or a total of 21% of overall energy usage.
Deep retrofits would cut household energy use by 58% to 79%, depending on the age of the home, and there is an appetite for making retrofits in order to improve sustainability and energy efficiency. In a poll conducted by HomeServe on LinkedIn, 35% of those surveyed said they were considering replacing or upgrading their home’s insulation, matched by those who expressed a desire to install energy efficient windows, also at 35%, followed by those interested in upgrading to energy efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning at 30%.
However, the average cost for these retrofits from to $42,600 to $56,750, according to ACEEE – an expensive proposition. In the HomeServe poll, only 15% said they expected to spend more than $20,000, while 25% said they’d spend $10,000 to $20,000, 27% would spend $5,000 to $10,000 and one-third said they planned to spend $5,000 or less on energy efficiency measures. There’s a clear gap between what respondents plan to invest and the investment needed to move the needle on sustainability and energy efficiency.
Additionally, energy prices are the highest they’ve been in more than 40 years, increasing by almost 16% for electricity and 33% for natural gas. Partly driving the cost was a muggy summer that resulted in a record use of residential power in the third quarter of 2022.
Those mounting costs could add to mounting utility debt – U.S. families have approximately $16 billion in utility debt, almost doubled from the end of 2019, with $792 the average amount owed. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association warns that, paired with the rising costs, continued high arrearages will continued to be accrued, despite the additional $4.5 billion added to LIHEAP as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
In HomeServe’s poll, 53% of respondents said they were interested in making their homes more sustainable and energy efficient to save money on their energy bills, while another 25% said they wanted to help protect the environment and 23% wanted to increase their home value.
Rising energy costs and households struggling with being energy burdened may have influenced the energy efficiency measures poll respondents said they would like to incorporate into their homes – the majority, 60%, were considering rooftop solar panels, followed by a smart device to monitor their energy usage at 16%, a home electric vehicle charger at 13% and a home storage battery at 11%.
Home repair plan programs contribute to energy efficiency because a member with a plan is more conscious of their appliances and, with repairs/replacements covered, more likely to fix inefficient appliances than the average homeowner. Regular tune-ups, included in some plans also keep appliances running efficiently. HomeServe plans protect members against the expense and inconvenience of HVAC, gas and electric lines, water heater and other home emergencies by providing affordable coverage and quality local service from rigorously-vetted network contractors.
To learn more about how you can bring this affordable, energy efficiency program to your members, contact us.
Not only are people – especially those who are most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, those with circulatory or pulmonary disorders and those without housing – being impacted with heat-related illnesses, more of us are simply getting sicker.
There’s good reason officials urge residents to go to public spaces equipped with air conditioning. Heat-related deaths dropped by 80 percent between 1960 and 2004 as the number of homes with home air conditioning increased to 85 percent, according to a study conducted by Tulane and Carnegie Mellon universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Air conditioning can be a literal lifesaver.
In a study, it was found that among those self-reporting heat-related illnesses, one-third did not have working air conditioning, with those without air conditioning almost four times more likely to have experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion. The study also found that low-income households were more than three times as likely to not have working air conditioning.
Carol R. of Mason, Ill., would have fallen through the cracks if it hadn’t been for her energy co-operative, Southwestern Electric Cooperative.
She and her husband were older adults with a fixed income, and her husband suffered from a chronic pulmonary health problem. Additionally, they were often caretakers for their young grandchildren.
Her heat pump failed at the very beginning of the summer and she was without air conditioning. The estimated cost to repair the heat pump was more than $3,100, and the unit was less than a decade old. The cost to fix the heat pump represented a significant portion of their annual income.
“I was searching to find the money to replace it on Social Security,” she said.
Carol was doing more strenuous chores around the house early in the morning to beat the heat, but she knew that, for the sake of her husband and grandchildren, she needed to get the heat pump fixed.
“I don’t have any air,” she said. “Outside, it’s 95 degrees, and it’s 83 degrees in the house, and I’ve got six fans running – four in the living room, one in the kitchen, one in the bedroom, and we’ve got a dehumidifier running so we’re not dying.”
So, she reached out to Southwestern to find out if there was anything the co-op could do to assist, and the utility had an answer for her.
“They reached out and said, ‘we have this partner, HomeServe,’ she said.
HomeServe is a leading provider of emergency home repair plans, and, as part of our partnerships with utility providers, the HomeServe Cares Foundation provides pro-bono emergency repairs for qualifying homeowners. Southwestern helped make a connection between Carol and the Foundation, and the Foundation agreed to take on the repair for Carol.
“Oh my gosh, it was just intense, intense relief,” she said.
To learn how HomeServe can help you protect your most vulnerable members, contact us.
Heat pumps are misunderstood by many homeowners – many still believe that they do not adequately heat homes or know very little about them.
Heat pumps are more energy efficient, because they move warm air from one space to another instead of generating cold or hot air. They can save members hundreds of dollars annually in HVAC and maintenance costs, while significantly reducing their carbon footprint. However, many members are uncertain how heat pumps work and what benefits they can see from them.
Additionally, certain heat pumps – specifically ENERGY STAR-certified ones – can earn members federal tax credits. Several states, local municipalities and utilities have additional initiatives to tempt homeowners to invest, but many members aren’t aware of these benefits.
We turned to Don Johnson of Freedom Heating and Cooling in Birmingham, Alabama, to get a frontline view on how homeowners view heat pumps, from someone who is out in the field every day. Don is the president at Freedom, which has been serving northern Alabama since 2003, when Don’s father, John Johnson, first began operations. Don and Freedom joined the HomeServe team in 2020.
Don participated in a quick question-and-answer session to give a snapshot of how homeowners view heat pumps right now.
Q: If a customer is interested in energy efficiency or saving money, have they expressed interest in heat pumps?
A: Not usually.
Q: If you’ve suggested an upgrade/installation, have you encountered any misperceptions/confusion from customers? What were they?
A: Most misunderstandings are that it will not heat the house as well as a furnace. Older heat pumps were often thought to not be working because the air out of the vent was not as hot as a furnace. However, 95-degree air will warm a home, but will also “feel” cool as it blows over you.
Q: What are the most common concerns from customers about the installation of a heat pump?
A: Is it “right” for my home.
Q: Are customers generally well-informed?
Q: Do customers understand what it is? If they don’t know, do you explain it to them or sell them something else?
A: We have to educate the benefits of lower gas bills with heat pumps, especially with dual fuel systems, which combine both gas heating and a heat pump.
Q: What are the top reasons customers list to have one installed?
A: Comfort, and humidity control is better than a furnace.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles to customers having heat pumps installed?
A: Electrical panel size and wiring are the biggest concerns. Proper size ductwork is more critical for a heat pump than a furnace or air conditioner.
Q: When you recommend heat pumps to customers, what benefits do you highlight?
A: Energy savings, comfort and better humidity through the winter.
Q: Are you seeing an increase in interest?
A: Heat pumps are more acceptable today than in the past.
Q: Any questions coming up frequently about heat pumps?
A: Will it heat my home as well as a furnace.
Q: How often do customers come to you with questions about heat pumps?
A: No; not often. We tend to bring up the subject.
Q: What makes the ideal customer or job?
A: Younger families with comfort concerns. Older individuals grew up with the blast of “hot” air and want that.
Educating members about the benefits of a heat pump is an uphill battle, but partnering with HomeServe can help you take it on – we have a nationwide network of pre-vetted contractors who know HVAC and can help members work out whether a heat pump is the smart move for their home.
HomeServe partners with utilities throughout North America to help educate their members, shield them from the unexpected expense of emergency home repairs and make finding a reputable contractor easier. We have an optional warranty plan for all of your members’ most vital whole-home systems, including HVAC, interior electric, interior plumbing and electrical and gas connections.
For more information on how we can help bring your customers peace of mind, contact us.
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