Countdown to Earth Day: Your House Is Contributing to Greenhouse Gases -- And Pandemic Is Making It Worse

Countdown to Earth Day: Your House Is Contributing to Greenhouse Gases — And Pandemic Is Making It Worse

  • The Kane County Board Energy And Environmental Committee, Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are teaming up for a “Count Down to Earth Day” series celebrating the success stories and spotlighting the environmental challenges we face right here, right now in Kane County, IL. Today’s article is written by Kane County Division of Environmental And Water Resources Resource Management Coordinator Ivy Klee.

As our climate changes over the years, it is important to consider how one will adapt to changing conditions.

Greenhouse gas emissions are one of the leading factors of climate change, and we have been trying to find solutions and implement these solutions to decrease our emissions rate. Renewable energy and energy efficiency programs are a start to help us reduce out emissions, help us to use less resources and often save money.

Today we’ll be sharing some energy efficiency tips that YOU can take to make your home more efficient, brought to you by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an agency with which Kane County works closely to implement regional sustainability initiatives at a local level.

The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus is an organization made up of local government leaders who want to collaborate on common problems and work toward a common goal. The Energy and Environment Committee has done research and provided information on residential energy efficiency and assistance programs to help consumers understand how energy efficiency programs work, and offer solutions that help customers save some cash.

According to the MMC, residential buildings were a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions when doing research to better understand environmental issues within the Chicago Metro region.

Additionally, the pandemic has worsened the percentage of household income spent on energy costs due to families being home and indoors over the last year. This is called an Energy Burden.

Home energy costs that are under 6% of gross household income are considered “affordable” by researchers. Households that are paying more than 6% of their income on energy costs face a “high energy burden” and those paying more than 10% are dealing with a “severe energy burden,” according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Low-income families in Illinois face a severe energy burden because they spend an average of 13% of their income on energy costs, according to Elevate Energy. Therefore, the MMC aims to spread awareness about energy efficiency assistance programs and help residents in the region understand how to get involved if they choose to.

Below are some energy-efficiency programs listed on the MMC website.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

LIHEAP is a grant program that assists residents in paying for winter energy bills. If eligible, a payment will be sent directly to the utility on behalf of a household.

If a household’s combined gross income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for the 30 days prior to the application, the household may be eligible for assistance.

For renters, if heat and/or electric is included in rent, then the rent must be greater than 30% of a resident’s income in order for the resident to be eligible. The application period is through May 31, 2021 or until funds are exhausted. Click this link for more information.   

Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program

IHWAP helps low-income residents reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. If a household is income-eligible, an energy assessor will record information about the home and then use a computerized energy audit program to determine which weatherization measures should be prioritized.

Contractors will be paid with IHWAP funds to complete the most cost-effective weatherization work, as well as health and safety measures.

Some of the IHWAP services include air sealing, attic and wall insulation, HVAC repair or replacement, water heater repair or replacement, electric base load reduction (lighting and refrigerator replacement), and ventilation and moisture control measures.

Residents can apply if their annual income is at or below 200% of the poverty level. To apply, contact the community action agency at this web address.

Free Home Energy Assessments

ComEd has partnered with local natural gas utilities to offer free in-person or virtual home energy assessments for single-family homes, two-flats, condos, and townhomes. Renters in these building types are eligible, with permission from their landlord. Multi-family building energy assessments for landlords or property managers are also available.

The assessment includes a free inspection to determine energy-saving opportunities, a personalized assessment report, and free energy-saving products. The free products ComEd offers are LED bulbs, energy-efficient showerheads and aerators, hot water pipe insulation, and programmable thermostats. Smart thermostats are available for purchase at a discount.

ComEd energy advisors will install the products at no cost during in-home assessments and will send the customer products during the virtual assessments.

For more details, go to ComEd Energy Assessments webpage. To schedule an assessment, call 855-433-2700.

ComEd Residential Hardship Program

ComEd’s Residential Hardship Program provides a grant to income-eligible, residential customers who are past-due on their electric bill and demonstrate a hardship, such as job loss, documented illness, military deployment, and senior or disability hardships.

Customers can apply once every two years for grants of up to $500 based on need and availability of program funds. Households with incomes of up to 250% of the federal poverty level may be eligible for this program, including those who receive LIHEAP benefits.

These are just a few of the energy-efficiency programs offered to help local residents, to see more information and to view 2021 rebates for energy-efficient appliances, click on this link.

Kane County Electrical Aggregation

Kane County participates in an Electrical Aggregation program to help save residents money on their utilities. An article with the savings program for 2021 will be published shortly after the Countdown to Earth Day Series. Check out the Kane County Electric Aggregation webpage to learn more.

Please reach out to Kane County Resource Management Coordinator Ivy Klee. She can be reached at KleeIvy@co.kane.il.us or by calling 630-208-8665.

Read The 2021 Countdown to Earth Day Series!