Advanced Energy Helps Evaluate Duke Energy’s Helping Home Fund

In January 2015, Duke Energy launched the Helping Home Fund, administered and contracted through the North Carolina Community Action Association and Lockheed Martin. The program has enabled low-income North Carolina residents to better manage their energy costs, improve their health and enhance their safety.

In the program’s first two and a half years, more than 3,500 homes received support from the Helping Home Fund and other leveraged funding through projects with local weatherization and nonprofit agencies serving low-income customers. These projects replaced appliances with energy efficient units, provided health, safety and weatherization improvements (e.g., roof repairs, water heater repairs, weatherstripping), and repaired and replaced heating and cooling systems. Indeed, over 1,300 homes that previously had non-functioning heating systems received new, functioning ones. Furthermore, without the Helping Home Fund, approximately 40 percent of the homes served would have been deferred by other low-income programs because of funding limitations and program guidelines.

Duke Energy reached out to Advanced Energy for help assessing the non-energy benefits associated with the initial $20 million allocation of the program. Non-energy benefits, as they sound, are benefits not directly associated with energy savings, such as comfort, well-being, economic improvement and safety. These outcomes, however, are often overlooked when considering the effectiveness of an energy efficiency program.

An Advanced Energy team led by Maria Mauceri created two surveys to evaluate the non-energy benefits of the Helping Home Fund. One survey was sent to a subset of homeowners who participated in the program, and the other was administered to service providers who performed the work. Responses showed the wide-ranging achievements of the Helping Home Fund. Homeowners reported having more money to pay for other necessities and feeling safer, more comfortable and healthier in their homes, while service providers praised the program for its flexibility and the positive impact it had on the community.

To accompany the survey, the team also conducted a literature review to examine other weatherization programs and their impacts. The goal of the review was to monetize the non-energy benefits received by participants in the Helping Home Fund. For example, the home improvements could increase property value, cause fewer fires or reduce emissions. Based on the review and the breadth of possible non-energy benefits, the homes participating in the Helping Home Fund could see non-energy benefits that exceed $5,000 in value.

The Helping Home Fund has been a huge success. Thousands of low-income North Carolina residents have received support that would have otherwise bypassed them, and additional funding has been provided to continue the program. As one homeowner noted, “How will I ever be able to thank you for kindness and generosity in helping us to get a new HVAC system put in. After living over a decade without heat and air, it had pretty much become a way of life for us to live in one room during cold and hot days. Thank you, again.”