Poll Shows Savings Sparks Interest in Energy Efficiency

Poll Shows Savings Sparks Interest in Energy Efficiency

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.

Water Heater Replaced by HomeServe Cares for Okmulgee Woman

Water Heater Replaced by HomeServe Cares for Okmulgee Woman

Typically, one of the first things Carla S. of Okmulgee, Oklahoma does in the mornings is hop into a hot shower. So, on one August day when the water was only getting lukewarm at best, she knew she had a problem. Sure enough, she ventured into her garage where her hot water heater was installed and noticed water leaking everywhere.

“The minute I saw the water in my garage, my heart sank into my stomach,” Carla recalled. “I knew that I couldn’t afford this type of emergency and started to pray for some sort of miracle.”

As someone who is on social security with no available savings, it’s no surprise that the situation sent Carla into a panic. It wouldn’t be feasible to live without hot water, and she didn’t have a backup plan or any sort of coverage on her water heater to help ease the financial burden. She did what many of us would do – vent about her situation on social media. And luckily for Carla, a longtime friend from high school, Lyle, came across her post. He is a decades-long employee at her utility company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), a part of AEP, and he had a great idea on how he could help.

Through his job, he was aware of the work the HomeServe Cares Foundation has done for PSO customers, and he suggested Carla apply to see if she qualified for aid. The case was quickly approved, and before long, HomeServe reached out to begin the coordination of the repair. Air Assurance, a local and reliable member of HomeServe’s Contractor Network, was on site shortly afterward and began to assess what would be needed. The water heater needed to be replaced and brought up to code – a total savings for Carla of over $1,100 since HomeServe Cares picked up the bill.

“I’ve known Carla for a very long time and have seen her struggle both with her physical health and financially,” said Lyle, a Customer Services Account Representative at PSO. “I can’t explain how so very proud I am of AEP’s relationship with HomeServe and the community attentiveness demonstrated through actions like this.”

The HomeServe Cares Foundation works to assist eligible homeowners with free repairs when they are faced with a service emergency. HomeServe will arrange for emergency repairs at no cost to the homeowner through HomeServe’s network of local, licensed and qualified contractors.

“HomeServe came through for me in a way I never would have imagined,” Carla said. “You’ve taken so much weight off my shoulders by being willing to help me when I needed it most. There is no way I could have come up with the money to fix this on my own. I’m so thankful for the company and the HomeServe Cares program.”

To learn more about how your customers can benefit through the HomeServe Cares Foundation, contact us.

Air Conditioning Essential As Heat-related Illnesses Rise

Air Conditioning Essential As Heat-related Illnesses Rise

Climate change isn’t doing our infrastructure any favors as heat waves melt roofs, roadways and airport runways, burst water mains, kink railway ties and crack bridge supports.

The heat also is making us sick.

More than 700 people in the U.S. die each year of preventable heat-related illness, according to the Centers of Disease Control.

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.

Doctors have seen a correlation between longer heat waves and intensifying heat-related illness, partially attributing the more serious illnesses to warmer nights that don’t allow the temperature to drop to a healthier level. They also reported seeing more heat-related illness not associated with typical causes like working, exercising or spending more time in the sun.

There is little done at a community level to address these concerns. Municipalities may open cooling centers, but they may be limited in scope, size or duration. Some public officials are encouraging their residents to go to shopping malls or other air conditioned public venues to avoid the heat.

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.

Electrical Cooperatives Find Customer-Centric Partner in HomeServe

Electrical Cooperatives Find Customer-Centric Partner in HomeServe

Southwestern Electrical Cooperative, which has served as a rural community partner for more than 80 years in Illinois, provides power to more than 24,000 members through nearly 3,500 miles of power lines.

As part of providing exceptional service and value to their members, Southwestern is part of the Touchstone Energy alliance, compromised of more than 750 cooperatives maintaining more than 2.5 million miles of power lines, in largely rural areas, in 46 states. Through their cooperation, these co-operatives provide services that would ordinarily require the resources of a large corporation spanning the nation.

Touchstone Energy also connects cooperatives with third-party providers like HomeServe, a proud Touchstone Energy corporate service provider and leading home repair company. HomeServe partners with more than 1,100 utilities and municipalities throughout North America to educate homeowners about their service line responsibilities. HomeServe also provides optional plans that allow homeowners to proactively address needed repairs, including to their exterior electrical service connection and interior electrical systems.

“We wanted to supply our members with a good option for coverage of the exterior electric lines not owned and maintained by Southwestern Electric Cooperative,” said Julie Lowe, Energy Manager. “In the past, when we were called out and determined that the problem or outage was due to problems on the member’s side, all we could do was inform them of the problem and let them know that they would have to hire an electrician.”

These proactive programs allow your members to actively address issues that can impact health, safety and energy efficiency, without putting off repairs because they are unable to afford them or uncertain how to navigate finding a reliable, qualified electrician.

“A lot of the repair issues that come about are after hours or weekends, and the members aren’t always able to reach an electrician right away,” Lowe said. “A plus side for us is that we require our members to purchase our meter loops, so, if that is the problem, we can get them back in power quickly and they can submit the claim after the work has been completed.”

HomeServe works with its partners to help educate homeowners about their responsibilities for the repair of utility service lines. Many homeowners are unaware they are responsible for the portion of the service line between the utility’s transmission lines and their home.

“This (program) has helped our members understand what parts of their service they are responsible for and what parts are covered by us as their utility,” Lowe said.

Southwestern staff knew that working with a company that had been approved and vetted by Touchstone Energy was a safe bet, but they also wanted a partner that shared their values in prioritizing member satisfaction.

“Although we have not had a lot of claims processed, the (members) who have (had claims), were taken care of in a timely manner and to the satisfaction of our members,” Lowe said. “We have also had a member benefit from the HomeServe Cares program, and he was extremely grateful for the help.”

The HomeServe Cares program offers pro bono repairs to qualifying homeowners who have an emergency repair that impacts safety, health, sanitation or quality of life.

There is no cost to an electrical cooperative to participate in HomeServe’s programs – HomeServe funds the administration and all promotional materials. Southwestern Electrical Cooperative can provide members with a program that costs the cooperative nothing and all member Service Representatives need relay to the members is a phone number. A benefit to this program is having a program without having to manage a program, and as part of HomeServe’s partnership with co-operatives throughout the country, HomeServe had paid more than $100,000 to cover the Touchstone Energy dues of partner co-ops.

HomeServe serves more than 4.8 million customers and has partnerships with more than 1,100 municipalities, utilities and associations, providing electric, water, sewer and HVAC service through local contractors.

“It’s a valuable program for many of our members,” Lowe said. “It provides them with peace of mind.”

To learn more about how you can partner with HomeServe to bring peace of mind to your members, contact us.