Weatherization project left residents warmer and planners wiser

By Archive

New Hampshire project showed that manufactured homes in resident-owned communities are perfect places to focus federal and state weatherization dollars.

Three years ago, the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund partnered with New Hampshire's Community Action Agencies to test a simple theory: that federal and state weatherization programs could do their work more efficiently if they focused on manufactured homes in resident-owned communities.

We pulled together almost $3 million in grants and set out to weatherize as many low-income households as we could, as cost-effectively as we could.

With the project now complete, we can celebrate some dramatic accomplishments:

  • 382 homes in 38 resident-owned communities have been weatherized.
  • Those homes should save an average $891 on energy bills this year, a combined savings of $340,000. Of course, those savings increase as the price of energy increases.
  • With our partners, the Community Action Agencies, we have demonstrated to the U.S. Department of Energy and the NH Public Utilities Commission that resident-owned manufactured-home communities (ROCs) are perfect places to focus federal and state weatherization dollars. By weatherizing every qualifying home in a community in one continuous campaign, the weatherization crews can work more efficiently, completing more homes in less time and with less waste.

Cover of weatherization reportWe have documented these results in Weatherization: Generating economies of scale within manufactured-home communities. This report explains how the Community Loan Fund and the Community Action Agencies tested this simple innovation. The project allowed crews to break through traditional program rules that have made it impossible for weatherization programs to achieve these efficiencies or to fully serve qualifying residents of manufactured-home communities.

The project also revealed a challenge for homeowners. Twenty-two percent of the homes served had furnaces that needed to be replaced because they posed a significant risk to the owners' health and safety: carbon monoxide. The traditional Department of Energy weatherization program wouldn't have addressed these problems, but the innovative funding in our project did.

ROC residents deserve much of the credit for the project's success. Community members shared their stories and, through word of mouth and some extra effort, helped the Community Action Agencies get qualified households signed up for the weatherization work. In a dozen ROCs, more than 20 percent of the homes were served. It was that density of demand that enabled the weatherization crews to "mass produce" their product and deliver quality service more efficiently.

At the personal level, the impact of this work has been profound. A resident of the Huse Road Cooperative in Manchester (where crews weatherized seven of the 36 homes) wrote last September after her home was weatherized: "I am looking forward to winter! I turned the heat off one week after the work was done because the furnace was coming on twice a day but the house was holding the heat. This is a vital program that should be expanded. I am on a fixed income but would gladly have paid $100 for the service."

The writer had been on Southern New Hampshire Services' weatherization wait list for six years.

By the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's Policy team.