New Opportunities for Energy Savers Network: Creating Safer and Healthier Living Spaces in our Community
By Hannah Egan
Energy Savers Network (ESN) is a program of Green Built Alliance that provides free energy-efficiency upgrade and weatherization services to income-qualified households in Buncombe County, which has helped more than 700 households since its inception in 2017.
ESN’s scope of work has historically consisted of air sealing, installation of low-flow water fixtures and LED lights bulbs, water heater insulation, installing reusable air filters, and more.
Thanks to grants and government funding, ESN has been able to significantly expand its scope of work by helping households with health and safety projects, as well as repairing and replacing HVAC units with more energy-efficient mini-splits and heat pumps.
Housing conditions contribute greatly to physical and mental health and for some individuals and families, their living spaces aren’t always a comfortable or safe place. Many people do not have the financial means or resources to keep up with essential home repairs themselves. This creates an increasingly unsafe environment over time, especially for disabled individuals, elderly adults and children.
Beginning in August 2020 through September 2021, ESN partnered with fellow local nonprofit Community Action Opportunities and its Healthy Homes Initiative (HHI) program. This program gave ESN the ability to assist clients that received weatherization services with health and safety projects in households where health issues were present. This collaboration allowed us to complete projects such as floor repair, ceiling and roof repair, gutter repair or installation, ramp installation, water heater replacement, mold remediation, and dehumidifier installation. ESN completed a total of 16 projects as a result of this collaboration.
When the HHI program concluded, there was the realization that there was still a great need to continue with health and safety projects among our clients. Thanks to a grant we received from the Dogwood Health Trust, we have been able to continue with these projects through the end of 2022. Our goal is to help as many as 25 homes by the end of this year.
Health and safety projects are an important pillar we can provide for our community, but HVAC projects can be just as important. Many lower-income households struggle to keep their energy use and utility bills low. These households usually spend more of their income on energy than the average household. This is largely due to the lack of financial resources for regular maintenance, repairs and equipment upgrades. Not to mention, HVAC projects can be very expensive for any household regardless of income.
The Bank of America Charitable Trust and a private donation granted ESN the ability to start helping homes with HVAC repairs and replacements. We were able to use the funds to provide five HVAC repairs and two heat pump installations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This effort provides state and local governments with resources to help alleviate negative impacts caused by the pandemic. Green Built Alliance and ESN received some of this funding to help households in the City of Asheville and Buncombe County with heat pump repairs and installations to reduce the economic burden that broken, old, or inefficient systems place on families. We have partnered with Sustainable Air Inc. as the contractor for these projects through 2025. Our goal is that these HVAC repairs and replacements will provide energy security and improve the air quality of these homes.
Coming out of the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, but so much of the current economic burden is being placed on our most vulnerable members of the community. These funding sources allow us to invest in families and improve quality of life.
Hannah is the outreach and resource coordinator for Energy Savers Network and has been working with Green Built Alliance for more than four years. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Appalachian State University focused on community, regional, and global development. Connect with Hannah at Hannah@greenbuilt.org.
You can also view this article as it was originally published on page 40 of the 2022-23 edition of the directory.