Weatherization Assistance Program

OCS administers the Federal Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), under the direction of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance of dwellings of low-income families using advanced technologies and testing protocols. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provides funding to OCS and other States and territories, which manage the day-to-day details of the program. These governments, in turn, fund a network of local nonprofit organizations to provide these weatherization services.

The energy conservation resulting from these efforts helps reduce Hawaii’s dependence on foreign oil while decreasing the cost of energy and improving the health and safety of their homes.  Families receiving weatherization services see their annual energy bills reduced by a national annual average of $440. However, because of the extremely high energy prices in Hawaii, the savings are even greater and are estimated to average $1,000 per household per year.

The national average cost of residential electricity per kilowatt hour as of January 2013 was 12 cents, but in Hawaii the statewide average was 38 cents, which is triple the national average of 12 cents.  Neighbor Island rates are higher than Oahu’s: The rates were 32 cents on Oahu, 38 cents on Maui; 39 cents on the Big Island, and 42 cents on Kauai. The energy improvements that make up weatherization services are long lived, and thus the savings add up over time to substantial benefits for weatherization clients and their communities, and the nation as a whole.

In Hawaii, OCS has administered WAP for approximately 30 years, installing solar hot water heaters, energy efficient refrigerators to replace old ones, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to replace incandescent light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, water heater timers, and other remedial measures.  The service providers engage in ongoing outreach to the target populations of low-income persons, particularly seniors and the disabled, who are then screened for qualification.  The providers’ energy specialists then make audits of the energy consumption of qualifying households and determine a savings-to-investment ratio (SIR), so that priority is put on installations that will be the most cost-effective.  These personnel also check the housing units for safety issues.  The personnel will typically install CFLs and low-flow shower heads when they make preliminary inspections.  Then, they have local private companies make the major installations in the houses that require them.  The providers endeavor to ensure that the old, replaced appliances are sent to appropriate recycling facilities, rather than adding to landfills, and to ensure that the energy-inefficient appliances – especially refrigerators – do not merely get handed down to a friend or relative who uses them in the same inefficient manner as before.

The personnel who work directly on these projects receive certification as Energy Educators after receiving specialized training.   The service providers work with local companies to obtain quantity discounts, and also work with their local electric utilities to monitor the post-installation energy usage of the homes that have been serviced and compare that usage to prior usage.  Eligible homes, if deemed appropriate, may receive any or all of the following:  CFLs, shower heads, refrigerators.   Such a comprehensive installation costs around $7,000 per household, including administrative overhead.

Resources for Additional Information

•  Hawaii WAP 2011 State Plan

•  Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council

•  Honolulu Community Action Program

•  Kauai Economic Opportunity, Inc.

•  Maui Economic Opportunity