Residential Energy Efficiency

Homeowner spending on home improvements and maintenance totaled $225 billion in 2011 [1].  However, a very small fraction is being spent on home energy upgrades. This market reflects thousands of lost opportunities every day for energy improvements that can help homeowners save money. A home energy upgrade could save 20% on annual energy costs. For the average homeowner that’s $460 [2].  And if 2% of homeowners completed home energy upgrades we could save enough energy to power every home in Denver and St. Louis [3]. Meeting the demand for electricity by improving the efficiency of our homes instead of from electricity generation would also shift investment from the capital-intensive production and transmission of energy toward more labor intensive industries—construction, manufacturing, retail sales, and services—that create more jobs for every dollar invested [4].

energy efficient home

Key Focus Areas

Efforts across the U.S. to encourage more home energy upgrades are fractured, and the number of homes upgraded is modest relative to the stock of inefficient housing. No single entity or level of government can drive a dramatic increase in the market for home energy upgrades. Accelerating and transforming this market will require the combined efforts of private contractors, lenders and other real estate market actors, utilities, homeowners, and all levels of government. SEE Action supports the home energy upgrade industry by equipping state and local decision makers and their partners with the tools and information they need to ensure the most effective program implementation. SEE Action has identified four key focus areas for residential efficiency:

  • Program design. Improve home energy upgrade program design, implementation, quality assurance standards, and workforce training.
  • Access to capital. Improve financing options for both product and service providers and homeowners.
  • Market valuation. Increase the value and demand for of home energy upgrades through energy performance labeling, disclosures, education, and data collection.
  • Energy efficiency policy support. Increase policy support for state and local home energy upgrade programs, rebates, and tax credits, and expand state clean energy commitments.

Key Initiatives

The Residential Retrofit Working Group is currently working on one key initiative—the Policymakers’ Guide to Home Energy Upgrades. This guide will help state and local policy makers understand home energy upgrade policy options and considerations for their design and implementation, and a framework for measuring progress.

[1] The U.S. Housing Stock: Ready for Renewal, Joint Center For Housing Studies Of Harvard University, page 2, 2013

[2] Assumptions: A 20% savings based on an annual average single-family home energy expenditure of $2,300 (RECS 2009).

[3]  Assumptions: 1,720,000 homes (2% of 86 million non-Weatherization Assistance Program eligible homes) saving 23 MMBTU/year (average estimate Home Performance with Energy Star project savings) or 0.04 Quads of energy each year. Average state energy use per household (from the RECS 2009 state fact sheets) and the number of households within Denver and St. Louis (from Census Data 2008-2012).

[4] Roadmap for the Home Energy Upgrade Market, Residential Retrofit Working Group, page vii, June 2011

Connect with Us about Residential Energy Efficiency

Contact our Experts
  • Steve Dunn, U.S. Department of Energy,
    Residential Retrofit Working Group, Staff Lead
  • Chandler von Schrader, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
    Residential Retrofit Working Group, Staff Lead

Guidance Documents from the Network

Roadmap for the Home Energy Upgrade Market

Outlines existing barriers that challenge progress toward achieving all cost-effective residential energy efficiency retrofits.

Delivering Energy Efficiency to Middle Income Single Family Households

Provides state and local policymakers with information on successful approaches to the design and implementation of residential efficiency programs for households ineligible for low-income programs.

Forum on Enhancing the Delivery of Energy Efficiency to Middle Income Households: Discussion Summary

Summarizes discussions and recommendations from a forum for practitioners and policymakers aiming to strengthen residential energy efficiency program design and delivery for middle income households.

Best Practices in Energy Efficiency Program Screening: How to Ensure that the Value of Energy Efficiency is Properly Accounted For

Provides a comprehensive review of a wide range of problems and inconsistencies in current cost-effectiveness test practices, and recommends a range of best practices to address them

cover of the policymaker's guideA Policymaker's Guide to Scaling Home Energy Upgrades

This Guide is designed to help state and local policymakers to take full advantage of new policy developments by providing them with a comprehensive set of tools to support launching or accelerating residential energy efficiency programs.

Guide for States: Energy Efficiency as a Least-Cost Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, and Meet Energy Needs in the Power Sector

A practical document that presents established policy and program “pathways” to advance demand-side energy efficiency, including:

  • Ratepayer-funded energy efficiency
  • Building energy codes
  • Local government-led efforts, such as building performance policies
  • State-led efforts, such as energy savings performance contracting
  • Commercial and industrial private sector approaches, such as strategic energy management and combined heat and power.

The guide presents case studies of successful regional, state, and local approaches to energy efficiency with sources for more information, resources to understand the range of expected savings from energy efficiency, and common protocols for documenting savings.

State and local air pollution control agencies will find SEE Action's Guide for States: Energy Efficiency as a Least-Cost Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, and Meet Energy Needs in the Power Sector to be a very helpful resource. The guide provides a clear and credible overview of how states and localities are putting energy efficiency to work for them, and what they are getting out of their investment. These approaches give air agencies a broader set of tools to meet air quality standards, protect public health, and achieve multipollutant emission reductions at a low cost.

- Bill Becker, National Association of Clean Air Agencies