Program Aims to Improve Economic Stability, Achieve Community-Wide Savings and Safety, and Reduce County's Impact on the Environment
Nearly 20,000 Franklin County residents have been helped by MORPC’s Weatherization Program since its inception and received $9.4 million in free products from 2017-2022, according to a recent Community Impact Report released by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). The report details the impact in Franklin County of the decades-long weatherization program which aims to improve the economic stability of households, achieve community-wide savings, improve safety for residents, and reduce the impact by the county on the environment.
Since 1988, MORPC has provided in-kind energy efficiency (weatherization) and safety services to low-income Franklin County households to increase their energy efficiency and safety. This Weatherization Program is designed to offer no-cost services to qualifying residents—those who are either homeowners or rent homes in Franklin County, and whose total household income during the preceding 12 months is equal to or less than 150–200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
From 2017–2022, MORPC and partners Columbia Gas of Ohio, Ohio Department of Development, AEP Ohio, and ENERGY STAR, have invested an estimated $5.1 million on health and safety, plus an additional $4.3 million in energy efficiency—all on parts and equipment that remain in the homes
Low-income households spend an average of 16.3 percent of their annual income on energy costs, compared to 3.5 percent for other households. What’s more, this imbalance of income-to-energy cost forces low-income families to sacrifice when it comes to other essential needs, such as health care, medicine, food, and childcare, directly impacting families’ ability to thrive. In Franklin County, this imbalance disproportionately impacts minority households.
In addition to direct savings in energy usage, a national evaluation from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Program found that weatherization of a home has non-energy benefits to families as well. According to this evaluation, program participants’ homes were healthier and more livable, resulting in fewer missed days of work and out-of-pocket savings for health care, averaging $514 per household.
As Central Ohio continues to grow, programs such as this will be critical to the quality of life in the region. By lowering the demand for natural gas, suppliers’ rates for the overall community go down. The U.S Department of Energy estimated in 2015 that for every $1 invested in their Weatherization Program, $2.78 in non-energy benefits was returned to the community, based on spurred economic growth and reducing the environmental impact of these homes.
Based on reports from the U.S. Department of Energy, The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, and Weatherization experts at MORPC, the estimated range of natural gas savings for a household participating in the weatherization program is 18 to 25 percent. Using these estimates and the average natural gas usage by household from 2017–2022, it’s estimated that if MORPC serves an average of 500 households a year, the amount of carbon dioxide prevented from polluting the atmosphere is equivalent to removing 85 to 118 personal vehicles from Columbus roads each year.