Just as the saying goes, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” Far too often, the people who most need energy efficient housing the most, cannot afford to have it. If we were able to make energy efficient houses more readily available, we could create jobs, encourage better health and safety, and promote cleaner air.
The Habitat for Humanity recently published their Shelter Report for 2015 highlighting their experiences with providing energy efficient housing to low income families. Their report states that those in need are the ones who spend the most on energy bills because they cannot afford to adequately insulate their homes. On average, low income families spend anywhere from 17%-50% of their income on energy bills while most others only spend an average of 4%.
Another reason low income families spend more money on their energy bills is because they tend to live in rented homes where they do not have the ability to install or replace things such as insulation and / or appliances. The landlords also do not have an incentive for updating these things because the tenant is paying the energy bills, therefor they will not make any money for those upgrades.
We know there are plenty of simple ways to green your home but they do not always cover how to make your home go from an energy hog to energy efficient. The Shelter Report calls for the government to promote financing for energy efficient housing for low income families. The study also supports the need for a national energy awareness campaign to inform community members on the importance of energy efficient homes.
In addition to lower energy bills, low income families also need energy efficient homes due to major health risks. According to a British study, those who live in low income and non-energy efficient housing without proper ventilation tend to suffer from asthma and other breathing ailments. Their non-insulated houses let in and keep in more air which can lead to many different types of health risks.
According to a yearlong study by the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, people who live in energy efficient apartments pay on average $54 less a month for electricity compared to those who live in low-income housing. The study promotes that we should be using energy efficient construction materials when building and over time we will be creating jobs and reducing costs. They also want to emphasize the importance of educating residents on energy efficiency.
If you live in a non-energy efficient home, here are a few quick tips for keeping your energy bills low while saving the planet. In the summer, switch your ceiling fan to counter-clockwise and in the winter, switch it to go clockwise. If you go on vacation in the winter, set your thermostat to 60 degrees, but don’t turn it off. Use power strips and remember to turn off or unplug those strips when they are not in use.
While these energy efficient tips will not make up for the fact that energy efficient homes are not affordable to those in need, it is at least somewhere to start. Do you have any experience with building or living in energy efficient homes? Share your story with us in the comments below!