Low-Income Weatherization--Better Way of Meeting Needs in View of Limited Funds

Gao ID: RCED-86-19 October 31, 1985

GAO reviewed low-income weatherization efforts in 17 states that had received over two-thirds of federal low-income weatherization funds in fiscal years 1982 through 1984 to: (1) describe the various weatherization efforts undertaken in selected states and provide data on the future of weatherization in terms of dwelling units weatherized, expenditures, and timeframes for weatherizing all eligible units; and (2) examine whether the weatherization program could be more effective if fewer dollars were spent per unit by limiting weatherization to the most cost-effective measures.

The two main sources of federal weatherization funding are the Department of Energy's (DOE) low-income weatherization program and the Department of Health and Human Services' low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP). The DOE program limits the annual average expenditure per dwelling unit in each state to $1,600 for specific weatherization measures; LIHEAP, a block grant program, leaves these decisions to the states. GAO found that: (1) it will require from 15 to 100 years to weatherize all eligible dwelling units in 15 of the 17 states studied; (2) states have the option of using more liberal LIHEAP income eligibility criteria, which could increase the number of eligible units by about 8 million; (3) states could spend an average, rather than a maximum, of $1,600 per dwelling, which may result in fewer dwellings weatherized; (4) dwellings weatherized in the earlier program years may need reweatherization before all dwellings are initially weatherized; and (5) DOE regulations provide for installing weatherization measures in order of cost-effectiveness on the basis of the cost of materials, installation, lifetime of materials, and the estimated annual fuel savings. GAO believes that establishing a requirement that weatherization investment be repaid in potential energy savings within a specified period of years would: (1) place emphasis on installing the three or four highest and most cost-effective priorities; (2) result in fewer measures being installed per unit; and (3) result in more units being weatherized, resulting in increased total energy savings.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

Director: James Duffus Iii Team: General Accounting Office: Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division Phone: (202) 512-7756

The Justia Government Accountability Office site republishes public reports retrieved from the U.S. GAO These reports should not be considered official, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Justia.