Energy Savers Network Offers Expanded Support for Low-income Homes This Winter

A person's hand adjusting a thermostat.

From humble roots working with volunteers to perform basic weatherization services on local homes to offering wide-ranging no-cost energy-efficiency upgrades for low-income clients, Energy Savers Network will be helping vulnerable families save money, reduce carbon emissions, and stay cozy in more ways than ever before this coming winter.

Winter can be a challenging time for low-income residents in Buncombe County, where more than 3,000 families receive home-heating assistance, while many more struggle to keep power bills paid and homes warm. Energy Savers Network serves clients with a household income at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level.

For the past five years, Energy Savers Network has received funding from the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to provide energy-efficiency upgrades to more than 850 homes. These homes are more prepared for winter as the cold weather arrives and temperatures drop. Helping low-income families seal up small and large holes in their homes makes the indoor environment more comfortable, healthy and safe.

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“Energy Savers Network touches the lives of our most vulnerable communities in a technical, compassionate, and inclusive way,” Energy Savers Network Project Manager Kelvin Bonilla said. “It addresses the intersection of environmental and social justice by serving families who face the highest energy burdens, are often forgotten, and are affected the most by climate change.”

Energy Savers Network has grown to expand its offerings considerably in 2022, now serving clients with basic energy-efficiency upgrades, home repairs, new heating systems and installations of solar energy systems. By pooling funding resources from government, foundations, and private donors, each client receives more benefits.

Energy Savers Network is now offering heating repair and replacement services funded by ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act). This includes electric HVAC repair and installations of new mini splits and heat pumps that replace old heating systems, many of which are not functioning and/or use propane or oil. These new heating systems dramatically reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions.

The program is also now doing home repairs with the financial support of Dogwood Health Trust. This effort provides essential health and safety repairs for households, helping keep homes more affordable and maintained.

The nonprofit is also launching phase two of the Neighbor to Neighbor solar program. This effort provides free solar energy systems to income qualified households. Through ARPA funding from the city and county, Green Built Alliance has hired Sugar Hollow Solar to install approximately 16 photovoltaic systems in the area in the next three years.

As the program has grown in scope, so has the impact. Typical savings per home are $231 per year. Based on when the home was served in total, clients have saved approximately $171,000 with 620 metric tons of CO2 savings which equals 3.6 million miles driven by passenger cars. With new home heating systems and/or solar energy systems savings will be even higher.

Since 2016 close to 300 volunteers have supported the program. Volunteers have been an integral part of keeping the cost of Energy Savers Network low and training people in the community to do energy efficient work.

Energy Savers Network plays an integral role in the effort to move to 100 percent renewable energy and serves a key piece of Green Built’s Alliance’s dedication to sustainable living, green building and climate justice through inspired action, community education and collaborative partnerships.

“Addressing climate change has to include everyone, especially those who pay the highest price for it, in order to make meaningful change and create a better future for all,” Bonilla said. “The ease of signing up for the program brings down barriers that these families typically face when trying to access services in the community.”

Community members interested in getting involved with Energy Savers Network as a client, volunteer, or donor can learn more at www.energysaversnetwork.org, or contact Hannah Egan at [email protected] 828-585-4492.