OEP Grant Supports Affordable Energy Efficient Housing, Trains Energy STAR Builders

icon of white house on background of green grass to symbolize energy efficient housing

By Brad Bowman

An Office of Energy Policy (OEP) grant is aiding efforts to make energy efficient homes more accessible to low- and moderate-income residents in southeast Kentucky.

OEP’s State Energy Program awarded a $15,000 grant to the non-profit Housing Development Alliance, Inc. (HDA) based in Hazard, Kentucky.  The grant, awarded in September 2020 and running through June 30, covers the cost of training for six Kentuckians to install building insulation that meets Energy Star standards, which are backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

The grant also covers costs associated with the inspections and certifications of up to 15 certified Energy Star homes constructed by HDA and will provide a rebate for costs associated with installing nine energy efficient heat pumps.

“This grant helps improve the quality of life for our fellow Kentuckians and aligns with our mission for energy efficiency and workforce development in a house someone will eventually call their home,” Office of Energy Policy Executive Director Kenya Stump said. “It puts Kentuckians on a path to a brighter future and puts an energy efficient home with energy efficient appliances within reach for moderate to low income families.”

HDA operates as a housing lender, developer, counselor and contractor for low-income residents in Breathitt, Floyd, Leslie, Perry and Knott counties.

Housing Development Alliance Executive Director Scott McReynolds said the program is introducing the concept of an Energy Star rated house to an entirely new market.

An energy efficient home can cost $5,000 more to build than a standard home, which creates a barrier for moderate- to low-income families, but there are a number of other factors at work, McReynolds said.

About 40 percent of the housing stock in the region consists of manufactured housing, which hasn’t typically emphasized energy efficiency, he said. Further, the region has enjoyed low energy costs, and the potential savings from energy efficient projects were small in comparison to increased building costs.

HDA programs have helped more than 2,500 rural southeastern Kentuckians become first-time homeowners, make essential repairs through its home repair program and find quality rental homes. 

The organization’s Hope Building Training Program provides on-the-job construction training, which includes college credit and certificates in construction, to people recovering from addiction. Through Hope Building, HDA is training the workforce in energy efficient construction, McReynolds said.

One of the Hope Building program’s recently constructed homes was Energy Star certified and earned a score of 45 on the Home Energy Rating Systems (HERS) Index, the industry standard for measuring energy efficiency. The lower a home’s HERS score, the more energy efficient it is. A typical HERS score on a newly constructed home is awarded a rating of 100, according to the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET).

Most of the 15 newly constructed and certified homes will be sold to households that meet the federal definition of low income, McReynolds said, but a couple will also be a part of HDA’s Hope Building Program. Those homes will be sold on the open market and buyers are typically moderate-income households.  

“We are the only Energy Star builder in our service area,” McReynolds said.  “People are often shocked to learn how little it costs to heat and cool one of our homes.  As more and more people learn about the advantages of an Energy Star home, we hope other builders will begin to produce highly energy efficient homes.” 

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