March 04, 2022

NC, Duke Energy offer programs to reduce energy costs. Here’s how to use them.

Reducing energy costs in homes across the nation by offering a $500 tax credit for weatherization efforts was one of the goals President Joe Biden set in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

“Let’s provide investment tax credits to weatherize your home and your business to be energy efficient and get a tax credit for it,” Biden said. He also called for the country to double its production of solar and wind energy and slash the cost of electric vehicles.

Some weatherization efforts are already in place in North Carolina, with both the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and Duke Energy offering programs to help residents modify their homes to use less energy and reduce bills.

WHAT IS WEATHERIZATION?

The Weatherization Assistance Program offered by DEQ includes a professional evaluation of homes for energy efficiency; repairing or replacing heating and air systems; insulating homes; and sealing ducts that are leaking. Other services include installing shower heads that flow more slowly, insulating pipes and wrapping water heaters in insulation blankets that result in less energy being used.

Duke Energy’s programs include similar measures, as well as programs that replace heating systems with energy efficient heat pumps and refrigerators with appliances certified by Energy Star.

HOW CAN WEATHERIZATION HELP ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE?

Cutting down on the amount of energy homes and businesses need to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer means there is less demand for new energy, said Forest Bradley-Wright, the energy efficiency director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

More efficient HVAC systems and well-insulated buildings are particularly effective at cutting demand at the times when energy demand is highest, like cold winter mornings and hot summer afternoons, Bradley-Wright said.

“If you want to bring a lot of renewable energy onto the grid, it helps if you have not only reduced the total amount of demand that you want to serve but have especially focused on the times of day and times of year when demand would be higher,” Bradley-Wright said.

WHO OFFERS WEATHERIZATION PROGRAMS?

Jeff Brooks, a Duke Energy spokesman, said the utility has offered weatherization programs in its Duke Energy Carolinas service area since 2015. That includes Durham, Charlotte and Greensboro, among other areas. Those programs are administered by local community action associations.

Duke also offers free home energy house calls to home owners, including in the Duke Energy Progress area around Raleigh. That includes free products like faucet aerators, hot water pipe wrap and electric outlet seals. Additionally, the utility offers rebates for some home repairs.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality also administers a Weatherization Assistance Program with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as a program to repair or replace HVAC systems.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE AND HOW CAN THEY APPLY?

DEQ’s Weatherization Assistance Program and Heating and Air Repair and Replacement Program are available to anyone with income below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that is $55,500, according to DEQ’s site.

To apply for DEQ’s offerings, contact the local agency that administers the program. You may have to supply proof of income for everyone in the home, energy bills and either proof of ownership of the home or written permission from the landlord to have it weatherized.

The same income guidelines apply to the Duke Energy Carolinas weatherization program.

DEQ’s Weatherization Assistance Program and Heating and Air Repair and Replacement Program are available to anyone with income below 200% of federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that is $55,500, according to DEQ’s site.

To apply for DEQ’s offerings, contact the local agency that administers the program. You may have to supply proof of income for everyone in the home, energy bills and either proof of ownership of the home or written permission from the landlord to have it weatherized.

The same income guidelines apply to the Duke Energy Carolinas weatherization program.

ARE RENTERS ELIGIBLE?

Renters need approval from the homeowner for both DEQ’s and Duke’s weatherization offerings.

But renters can apply to Duke Energy’s appliance replacement program without receiving approval from the homeowner.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Both the state and Duke Energy programs are free.

Weatherization can save customers as much as $300 a year, according to DEQ.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO THESE PROGRAMS HELP?

According to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the number of people who took advantage of each of the three weatherization programs offered by the state between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2022, included:

  • 863 for the Heating and Air Repair and Replacement Program, which repairs heating and air conditioning systems.
  • 822 for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades.

  • 430 for the Department of Energy’s weatherization and energy efficiency program. 

     

Brooks, the Duke spokesman, said the company has provided weatherization or refrigerator replacements to 5,300 people in its Duke Energy Carolinas service area — including parts of North and South Carolina — since the programs’ February 2015 launch.

DOES DUKE ENERGY HAVE PLANS TO EXPAND ITS WEATHERIZATION PROGRAMS?

Yes. The utility says it plans to offer more weatherization programs. Brooks wrote that Duke is seeking to expand both its Weatherization and Equipment Replacement Program and Refrigerator Replacement Program to the Duke Energy Progress service area in 2022. That basically covers the area from Raleigh east.

HOW COULD HOUSE BILL 951, THE ENERGY BILL, IMPACT WEATHERIZATION?

House Bill 951, a sweeping energy bill passed last year that mandates the company reduce its emissions 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, could lead to expanded energy efficiency offerings, according to a Duke spokesman.

“Enhancing energy efficiency programs to reduce demand, along with time-of-use options to shift energy use to non-peak periods, will be the first priority of the Carbon Plan. Also, we are considering weatherization as part of the energy efficiency on-bill financing tariff measures allowed by HB951,” wrote Bill Norton, the Duke spokesman.

“On-bill financing tariffs” refers to a program where Duke would pay for weatherization efforts upfront and then recover the cost over a period of time on monthly bills.

As Duke shapes its plan to cut carbon emissions, Bradley-Wright said, North Carolina energy advocates will be watching closely and pushing the utility to increase its offerings, in large part because cutting demand offers a cheaper route to cutting carbon than building out new infrastructure

“Putting energy efficiency and demand response first is absolutely the best approach for decarbonizing the utility grid in North Carolina,” Bradley-Wright said.

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