President Obama on the Weatherization Program

In an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric on Wednesday, President Obama was asked about spending measures in the House version of the stimulus package that have been criticized by Sen. Mitch McConnell and others, including $6.2 Billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program. President Obama makes the case for the weatherization program as a means to jump start the economy by creating jobs immediately, saying “We’re going to weatherize homes, that immediately puts people back to work and we’re going to train people who are out of work, including young people, to do the weatherization. As a consequence of weatherization, our energy bills go down and we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. What would be a more effective stimulus package than that?”

The President is correct.

As a paper by the Federation of American Scientists demonstrates, the Weatherization Program is the longest running, and perhaps the most successful US Energy Efficiency Program. The program, which underwrites a portion of the cost for improving the energy efficiency of low-income homes, reduces heating costs by an average of 31 percent, resulting in significantly lower energy bills that are so important in trying economic times like these. The program also creates roughly 52 jobs for every $1 million of federal investment. The stimulus package’s investment of $6.2 Billion into the Weatherization program will result in roughly 300,000 jobs created.

The program carries a great potential to alleviate both the economic and energy woes our country currently faces. Investing in weatherization through the stimulus bill also provides the opportunity to create a more modern, streamlined and effective system for improving residential energy efficiency in the future. To do so, and to ensure the best use of stimulus funds, the weatherization program needs to improve the software tool that weatherization centers use to determine which retrofits are cost-effective, upgrade and standardize the training for energy auditors and weatherization crews, and start collecting data from the field about the real energy savings and costs of different weatherization measures to continuously improve the program.

FAS applauds President Obama and the members of congress for recognizing the potential of the Weatherization Program, and we look forward to seeing this potential realized.

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13 Responses to “President Obama on the Weatherization Program”

  1. Tan February 12, 2009 at 2:10 PM #

    This appears to include a possible scaling flaw. If I put $6.2 billion dollars into a single soft drink machine, will it by itself yield 12.4 billion cans of soda? Adding funds to this admittedly fine program does not discover any means to build new wealth in the private sector, and therefore the economy.

  2. Huntington February 16, 2009 at 11:10 AM #

    (…For the record, soft drink vending machines are incapable of holding $6.2m, in any denomination.)

  3. kev February 17, 2009 at 10:05 AM #

    The Department of Energy’s website states that homes which have received weatherization assistance save an average of $358 per year.

    $358?

    Is that worth $6,200,000,000?

    And is realistic to think that we will now have 300,000 new jobs, 300,000 new “weatherization assisters” running around the country? How long will that last?

  4. Vicky Pollard February 19, 2009 at 12:41 PM #

    Not only that, but the average wage of those 300,000 new workers would be ~$10/hr — not really much more than minimum wage so there will be additional costs off the balance sheet for low income health care. Will there be any money to encourage the creation of high-quality jobs, e.g. skilled factory jobs that could pay a living wage?

  5. Kimberly Hayes February 21, 2009 at 8:18 PM #

    weatherization assisters” running around the country?

    I guess you all have no earthly idea what weatherization Assistance Program even is. When you are weatherize a home, you are equipping a house with everything it needs to be more energy efficient. Or do you even know what that means?? They send an energy auditor into homes, that most city governments have to call in someone trained because most city officials aren’t. Energy auditors don’t get paid minimum wage. To weatherize a home, they will remove windows and replace them with ones more energy efficient. And, again the city has to hire trained individuals to install the windows. Next, they will often have to reinsulated a house, which again takes a different trained individual. Finally, they will call plumbers in, to replace leaky pipes, and put in the new tankless water heaters, the new energy efficient toilets, and even tubs. Imagine that…evidently some have no idea what that is. Lastly, they’ll call in HVAC people to install more efficient heating/air source. And, depending on how much the weatherization is expanded, they may try to set them up with solar panels or other such things that would make people less dependent on electricity for their heating or air source, and they won’t have to continue paying $300+ on their electric bill. The people trained to do these jobs aren’t ‘weather assisters’ they are blue collar workers; they work in 100 degree weather and in 30 below weather. They don’t get paid minimum wage, or even $10 an a hour.

    I find it fascinating that people think that anyone that earns less than $24 an hour isn’t worth giving a job. Yes, this may not put factory workers back to work, but come on people it’s going to take time. Most of what would be produced in these factories, people can’t afford to buy it. Give me a break, it just seems like you all want everything to go back to normal overnight but President Obama has told us repeatedly that it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s going to take patience.

    The $358 could very well add up to the $6,200,000,000 when you consider the millions of people that are low income or senior citizen in need of that weatherization.

  6. Larry February 23, 2009 at 4:48 AM #

    As an Estimator with a background in Industrial and Home Construction I can tell you this is a waste of money. The cost to tear down the vinyl siding, reframe the window and door openings, buy new windows and doors, along with the removal and reinstallation of blown insulation, wrapping the house with vapor barrier, and finally reinstalling the vinyl siding would cost on average close $20,000 per single family house. If the annual cost savings were $358 per year it would take 56 years to see the cost benefit of “Weatherization”. This alone will not entice most people to invest that type of money considering the average American does not reside in a house for more than 5 years.

    Now if you assume the average house hold is 4.2 people and at the current population of 305 million it would work out to 71 million single family homes in the US. So when you divide $6.2 billion dollars per single family home it works out to $87 per home that would benefit from this “Weatherazation” program.

    Now please explain to me how that is helpful to our nation and helpful to the average household that is struggling to buy the daily necessities.

    This is $6.2 billion wasted on another Liberal pipe dream. The best way to have handled this is to have the states legislate a tougher building standard that would meet LEED Silver or higher certification.

  7. Johnsie February 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM #

    Larry – Replacing windows and siding is a rather extreme example. There are plenty of effective low cost projects that can be done to save energy. Saving energy means less dependence on foreign oil, which means our economy is less susceptible to foreign influence. Saving energy means more disposable income for citizens and perhaps more expenditures from them, thereby boosting our economy. Conservatives want tax cuts to boost spending. Weatherization assistance will accomplish the same objective, however the savings will last for years. Remember the old adage, give someone a fish and they eat for a day, teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Get the (big) picture? Stop applying partisan politics to the stimulus package and take an objective approach to it. While I agree LEED Certification is a step in the right direction, I don’t know why you mention it in your argument – LEED Certification is for commercial buildings, not residential.

  8. Brian H February 24, 2009 at 11:22 AM #

    A few comments…

    I agree that Kimberly and Johnsie are providing extreme examples of weatherizing a home. Energy auditors can do much less work and still achieve up to 20% efficiencies. A blower door test to find leaks, some mastic on the HVAC system – the home will become a lot tighter and the heating system more efficient all for less than $1,000. And in many cases an energy auditor will do the same work. A good story on NPR yesterday – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101059253
    The only problem with making the home tighter is now there could be an indoor air quality issue and possible health issues.

    This energy auditor/ weatherization assistant, whatever you call them, are a trade that is here to stay. They can fix cooling issues in the summer as well and in the future it is all about infill development, rehabing old homes to provide housing for our growing population. With all the recent changes in building science and the legacy methods of home buildings still in use today, these skills are desperately needed even as consultants to many legacy home builders. The next step should be an energy rating (HERS) at the time of new ‘building plan submittal’ to local building officials so anything being built new is somewhat energy efficient. Just conforming to code is not doing much.

    Yes you can replace windows, doors, add alternative energy and as correctly stated, the payback is much longer. These types of improvements are better suited for homeowners with the access to capital for the investment, usually not your lower income demographic. For these type of improvements there is the Energy Efficient Mortgage but as stated in an earlier FAS paper “Rebuilding Mortgages for Energy Efficiency” this program needs to be improved. Its unfortunate the new stimulus didn’t address EEMs, a huge miss.

    LEED does have a residential program, LEED for Homes, but realistically it is for new construction but I do beleive they also have retrofit guidelines.

    All in all, I think the focus on weatherization in the stimulus package is a smart move. If 1,000,000 homes can improve efficiency by 20%, you win with more jobs, energy savings, utility payment savings, and a reduced carbon footprint. Its better than giving money to Walls St.

  9. Brian H February 24, 2009 at 11:24 AM #

    I meant Kimberley and Larry were providing extreme examples, Johnsie was on target.

  10. Gilbert March 14, 2009 at 6:15 PM #

    I agree that the weatherization plan is a goal that we should all achieve within our homes. However, when ever the government pursues some type of goal, it usually ends up bloated, wasteful, and costing someone else other than those that benefit from the redistribution of earned funds.

    The stimulus package alone will cost our grandchildren without them ever receiving any advantageous results. To enhance the economy should be looked at from the perspective that everyone else would do, cut costs and to use your resources to the fullest extent. This does not include going out and spending more money that you do not have. Bigger government is not the answer. Bailing out corrupt corporations and banks are also not the answer. Allowing them to fail and the market to correct itself is the best possible alternative.

  11. Nydria Humphries March 16, 2009 at 4:52 PM #

    Weatherization is sure needed. Some of these buildings—still standing— are as old as the Industrial Age! Thanks President Barack Obama for actually caring about individual families! I appreciate the President for actually taking pride in his job. He is a great role model! And I hope that he dust the haters off—-Rush you need to Hush!

  12. Francis November 17, 2009 at 3:02 PM #

    another good resource is http://www.energyauditortalk.org, for those involved in the business.

  13. Jim October 13, 2010 at 11:41 AM #

    There was another comment on another web site about this program. One person wanted to apply and found there was a 3 year waiting period due to a lack of boots on the ground. It seems that the weatherization program has to be performed by “Union People”. Also the companies in place since way back when this program was first implemented, get first crack at the money. Projects build up for these companies and they are not able to hire people fast enough to keep up with demand??

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