Our Energy Navigators Project brings together the energy expertise of Community Solutions with the outreach capabilities of Home, Inc. and Opportunities for Individual Change to develop a coordinated energy literacy campaign for low-income citizens in Yellow Springs and Springfield. The pilot materials developed—in print, web, video, and workshop format—will later be shared broadly with Community Action Partnership (CAP) agencies throughout Ohio and the Nation.
While energy and water use and costs impact all householders, low-income renters and homeowners are particularly affected. They often do not have the resources to accomplish deep-energy retrofits, and renters are dependent on landlords to do upgrades. Even with financial incentives, the aging stock of homes in the Yellow Springs/Springfield area means that weatherization projects are expensive and often cannot be accomplished because of pre-existing home barriers. This means that low-income residents, whose energy bills represent a significantly higher portion of their income than those of median-income householders, often are—literally—left out in the cold. Utilities-related debt, shut-offs, inefficient heating systems, antiquated appliances, and extreme home temperatures have significant health impacts, including respiratory illness, pneumonia, increased fire risk, bronchitis, hunger, and stress. These health and safety issues can lead to additional expenses and loss of income for poor families.
Fortunately, there are many no- and low-cost strategies for energy and water reduction. Low-cost strategies for energy savings include covering windows with plastic sheeting for increased insulation, caulking building leaks to prevent escaping heat, and switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs. No-cost behavioral changes include turning down thermostats, using cold water rather than hot taps for many household uses, closing off rooms in the winter, unplugging what is not in use, pulling shades or otherwise covering windows, turning down heat at night, turning the lights off when you leave the room, tapping natural resources (south-facing windows, natural ventilation), wearing layers indoors, and heating people rather than space.
Energy literacy also includes the ability to read utility bills; awareness of programs and other assets that are available to low-income residents in need of emergency energy assistance; and empowering low-income families to conduct basic energy audits to assess their own energy use and needs. The project will also emphasize community action and leadership, which can provide a support network to prevent individuals from falling into crisis.