Robin, a single mother of two, lived in an old apartment in the Old North End of Burlington. The windows rattled when it was cold, and heating in the winter was a nightmare.
“I remember a really cold winter when we had the heat up to 80 degrees, but the house was 50 degrees,” she said. “This house is energy efficient and it’s amazing to be here in the winter as opposed to our old house.”
For many of our partner families, they come from situations in which they are living in substandard housing. These units lack updated heating and cooling systems, insufficient insulation, and other environmental hazards.
“We’ve had families come from situations where they were paying triple the heating costs each winter just to keep warm,” said David Mullin, CEO of Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity.
According to the 2023 Vermont Energy Burden report by Efficiency Vermont, Vermont households are spending an average of $7,071 annually on electricity, thermal, and transportation fuels. This is around 11% of median household income.
When transportation cost is removed, energy and heating costs account for 5% of incomes for Vermonters. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, spending 6% or more on energy costs is considered high.
However, 67% of households with low incomes face a high energy burden, and of those, 60% spend more than 10% of their income on energy. Furthermore, households with low incomes spend almost four times as much on household energy costs as households with higher incomes.
Efficiency Vermont noted that there are many programs and incentives for low-income Vermonters to weatherize their homes and update heating and cooling systems.
Although, a report published by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources estimates that heating buildings, which includes homes, is estimated to be the largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.
In an article from VPR, Jane Lazorchak, Climate Action Office Director, said that long term, the pandemic could lead to more emissions from heating buildings, as many people are working from home while businesses are heating partly empty offices.
For households in single-family homes who weatherize their homes, on average, they save 12% of their annual energy bill. This equates to a reduction of over 2,400 gallons of gasoline consumed.
Green Mountain Habitat helps low-income families reduce their energy costs through installing efficient heating, cooling, and energy systems.
“We have high energy standards and have energy audits done by Efficiency Vermont,” said Chris Lane, Construction Manager at Green Mountain Habitat.
The homes that we create include ducted air-source heat pumps. These systems transfer air and heat from the outside air into the home. These systems reduce electricity use for heating by approximately 50% compared to electric resistance heating such as furnaces and baseboard heaters, according to the US Department of Energy.
“This ensures that you’re not losing hot air, makes a house more breathable, reduces the moisture within a house, and it gives you a safer environment,” said Lane.
For our partner families, their average cost of mortgage payment, utilities, taxes, and insurance is often less than what they were paying in their prior living situations. This means that families are not energy burdened and are able to live comfortably throughout the year.
Homes that use more energy are ultimately unsustainable and cost more in the long-term. At Green Mountain Habitat, we are committed to the resilience of our homes for both the environment and the financial component for our partner families.
“It is important to us that we are building efficient homes that are sustainable for both the families and the environment,” said Mullin.
Join our mission of building energy efficient homes in Northwest Vermont. Learn more about the environment and housing by reading the evidence brief by Habitat for Humanity International.