To tattoo, or not?

  • October 23, 2018
  • Heat Smart

“Save up to 10% each year on energy bills by turning thermostats down 7-10° at night.” – U.S. Department of Energy

That’s kind of long for a tattoo, but it is our mantra here at Heat Smart. We have it nearly everywhere – on brochures, on posters, in all our communications. And we believe it can change lives. How? By getting at-risk families the tools that empower them to turn the heat down and still stay warm. That’s the Heat Smart Kit.

We set out to demonstrate how we could change energy-use behavior through two studies and we found more people turned the heat down by more degrees, more often. They stayed warm and saved energy too.  And when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, having extra money left after paying bills is like having Christmas every month.

Here is just some of the feedback we received from participants in our Behavior Change Studies.

“I appreciate the blankets I received to be able to save a little on the heating. I will certainly use them again this winter.” -Annie, Wilmington, NC

“The blankets were soft and cozy; I turned the heat down 10 degrees. I know it saved me money, approximately $5 to $8 per month.” Bobbi, Kannapolis, NC

“The blankets were really warm! I will use them again this winter.” Burleigh, Fairmont, NC

“It helped with household expenses. We saved $10 to $20 each month.” David, Fairmont, NC

“It showed me how easy it is to be efficient, and I was able to spend the savings on groceries.” – Erica, Wilmington, NC

Bottom line: in the first study 91.7% or respondents reported monthly energy savings, and in the second study 98.8% reported monthly energy savings. And that’s just one metric. We put all our findings together in a Case Study Report that you can download here for free.

Helping the heat insecure like Erica, Bobbi and the others warms our hearts and keeps us going. We want to form even more partnerships to help even more people. If you’re involved in heat assistance for vulnerable families, you owe it to your constituents to contact us and see how we can help!

It’s Block Grant Season!

  • September 13, 2018
  • Heat Smart

This week marks three beginnings: the official start of fall, the unofficial beginning of FY19 budget planning, and the beginning of the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP) Conference in Bellevue, Washington. We’re looking forward to attending the conference and sharing ideas with state administrators of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Program. It’s a great opportunity to discuss strategies and innovations in the fight to reduce poverty across the country.

Heat Smart’s mission is to empower families with the tools they need to save energy and thus money. It dovetails perfectly with both NASCSP’s vision – the empowerment of low-income families – and CSBG’s purpose – provide core funding to local agencies to reduce poverty and empower low-income families to become self-sufficient.

Our goal is to help states build their capacity to respond to poverty issues by partnering with their community service agencies and distribute Heat Smart Kits to low income families. Another key thing to know at this time of year is that block grant dollars can be used for Heat Smart Kits as they help reduce energy poverty. LIHEAP’s Assurance 16 funds can also be used on products (like Heat Smart Kits) that encourage and enable households to reduce their home energy needs and thereby the need for energy assistance.

We know that each state’s CSBG requirements are a little different, so we’re flexible in how we work. We’re always striving to be creative when developing programs for our partners, so if you have an idea for a Heat Smart program, tell us! We’re happy to discuss options.

If you’re going to Bellevue, stop by our booth and say hello. If not, email me and we’ll set some time to talk!

Where will the money come from?

  • August 23, 2018
  • Heat Smart

It’s a common question for America’s heat insecure when facing the approaching winter and increasing energy bills. The burden of high energy costs weighs heavily on those least able to afford it.

It’s also a common question for those of us working in heat assistance programs. The need is great (nearly 1 in 4 Americans are eligible for federal and state home energy assistance) and resources are tight. We partner with organizations throughout the U.S. to distribute Heat Smart Kits to low-income families and they often ask us for funding ideas, so we thought we’d share them with you here. In addition to the usual energy assistance budgets, think about:

  1. LIHEAP Crisis funds – Heat Smart kits are an approved expenditure for these funds to help those in crisis.
  2. Assurance 16 funds – This provision gives LIHEAP grantees the option of spending five percent of their LIHEAP funds on services that encourage and enable households to reduce their home energy needs and thereby the need for energy assistance.
  3. Grants – Many charitable foundations include heat assistance or reducing energy dependence as part of their mission. And if writing grant applications isn’t your strong suit, we can connect you with a qualified grant writer who can help.
  4. Weatherization Programs – Because Heat Smart kits include weather-stripping to reduce drafts and energy use, these programs align with our mission.
  5. Corporate Gifts/PR budgets – Many businesses have a charitable giving division you can partner with for funding to reach more families. In fact, we work with National Grid’s Customer Care Outreach Team to get Heat Smart kits to returning veterans struggling to set up households.

We hope these ideas get your brainstorming juices going and provide new ideas for your program or organization. We’ll be at several industry trade shows this fall, including the CAP Annual Convention in Denver, CO; the NASCP Annual Training Conference in Bellevue, WA; and the NAHRO National Conference & Expo in Atlanta, GA; so, stop by and see us. We’d be happy to discuss ideas on how we can all work together to reach more families in need.

Get the facts on Energy Poverty

  • May 17, 2018
  • Heat Smart

If you’ve never struggled to pay your heat or electricity bill, chances are the idea of energy poverty feels like an abstract. So what is it, exactly? Home energy and housing experts define energy poverty as when energy costs for heat and light are more than 6% of household income, others say more than 10% is the baseline.

Yet studies show much of the country’s poor are paying 25% of their income for heat and light – and in some extreme examples, closer to 75%, as reported by Data from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests people below 50 percent of the poverty level spend roughly 35 percent of their income on home energy bills. Studies have shown energy poverty follows overall income disparity: the poorest neighborhoods are the most affected throughout the country.

Energy poverty is another example of “the high cost of being poor.” Renters who pay for their own heat have no control to improve their situation if the landlord or owner is not motivated to improve efficiency. Renters are also more likely to live in draftier homes because they cannot pay for better insulation and newer windows themselves. In addition, rental units often have older, less efficient appliances.

The secondary effects of energy poverty are far-reaching. Next to domestic violence, not being able to afford utility bills is the number two reason for homelessness, reports Punitively high utility bills also force difficult choices such as:

  • Going without heat
  • No hot water
  • Going without light after sundown
  • Forgoing food or medicine to pay for heat
  • Using improvised and unsafe energy alternatives. (For example, burning pressure-treated lumber scrapped from construction sites, releasing deadly arsenic fumes.)

There has been progress to relieve energy poverty but it’s slow going and not enough. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) delivered over $3 billion of relief in 2015, but funds only reached 22% of families who need assistance.

Heat Smart aligns with organizations such as Energy Out West (EOW), the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) and the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC) to raise awareness about the issue, advance weatherization and conservation projects, and work toward solutions. We’ll be at all their conferences this spring, and we won’t stop until every home is a warm, healthy and safe one. If you’re going, stop by and see how we can work together to make our shared goals a reality.

Energy burden higher for those who can least afford it. 

1 in 4 households held back by a high energy burden.

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