History of the Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program was created under Title IV of the Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976. During a period of staggering increases in energy prices following the 1973 oil crisis, the program was designed to save imported oil and cut heating bills for low-income households, including senior citizens living on fixed incomes and Social Security, who were especially hard hit by rising energy bills.
Technical Sophistication Increases Over Time
At first, weatherization providers emphasized low-cost measures, such as covering windows with plastic sheets and caulking and weatherstripping windows and doors. Many of these were emergency and temporary measures. As the providers gained experience and understanding of the cost-effectiveness of different energy efficiency measures, they gradually included different types of weatherization measures. To support this experience, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has regularly conducted evaluations that verify savings and cost-effectiveness.
By the early 1980s, the emphasis had turned to more permanent and more cost-effective measures, such as installing storm windows and doors and insulating attics. In 1984, DOE began to allow states to fund energy efficiency improvements to existing space heating and water heating systems. In 1985, replacement of defective furnaces and boilers was approved.
In 1994, the use of cooling efficiency measures, such as air conditioner replacements, ventilation equipment, and screening and shading devices, was permitted. These measures helped low-income households in warm climates, where cooling costs may be higher than heating costs. Work on heating systems and mechanical equipment was also allowed. The requirement that 40% of Program funds be spent on materials was waived in states that adopt approved advanced audits, thus ensuring audit-driven cost-effectiveness tests of investments.
In the 1990s, the trend toward more cost-effective measures continued with the development and widespread adoption of advanced home energy audits. This proved to be a key advance for weatherization service providers since it required every home to be comprehensively analyzed before work began in order to select the most cost-effective measures and the best approach. This custom analysis of every home has become the hallmark of weatherization and ensures each client receives the most cost-effective treatment.
In 1999, the Millenium Weatherization Committee, a planning group, issued the strategy report, Weatherization Plus: Opportunities for the 21st Century, outlining a plan for DOE to support weatherization agencies in flexibly adopting a whole-house approach and a whole-community approach to better serve low-income Americans.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the Recovery Act), WAP received $5 billion to weatherize nearly 600,000 homes, which will help achieve the President's goal of weatherizing 1 million homes per year. In addition to the funding increase, a number of amendments were enacted to allow more cost-effective measures to be installed in more homes, including raising the maximum dollar limit per dwelling from $2,500 to $6,500.
With increased flexibility, better methods for choosing weatherization measures, and advanced diagnostics—such as blower-door-directed air sealing—the Weatherization Assistance Program now installs more cost-effective improvements tailored to the needs of particular dwellings in their specific climates.
|1973||Oil crisis creates fuel shortages.|
|1976||Congress creates the Weatherization Assistance Program focusing on emergency and temporary measures.|
|1980||Emphasis is placed on more cost-effective and permanent measures.|
|1984||Space and water heating improvements are authorized.|
|1985||Furnace and boiler replacements are approved.|
|1990||Advanced audits are developed and implemented.|
|1994||Cooling measures for warm climates are included.|
|1999||Weatherization Plus strategy is unveiled.|
|2000||Advanced energy audits are in use nationwide.|
|2008||More than 6 million homes are served.|
|2009||WAP receives $5 billion under the Recovery Act.|