New Studies Put a (Large) Monetary Value of Weatherization Improvements
Energy upgrades not only save you money, they can also improve your health, many studies, including recent national research, have found. Yet until now almost no states have attempted to quantify these benefits when they screen efficiency programs for cost-effectiveness.
Massachusetts has been leading the way on this issue, and this year is taking new steps that could set an important national precedent. In 2011 the state commissioned a study to monetize health benefits from low-income weatherization programs. Now, the state is supporting a new study to revisit the issue that draws from the methods and finding of large-scale rigorous research on the household and societal health benefits of energy upgrades funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and overseen by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy.
The preliminary findings of this new research are impressive. The study, conducted by Three3 (pronounced “Three Cubed”), found that low-income weatherization upgrades create a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Reduced incidence of asthma and fewer asthma-related hospital visits;
- Reduced thermal stress in both the winter and the summer, resulting in lower medical costs and fewer deaths
- Fewer missed work days
- Lower risk of CO poisoning and fire-related death, injury and property damage
Massachusetts had previously estimated that health benefits from energy upgrades were in the range of $10 per year. Preliminary findings from the new study suggest that the real benefits are forty to fifty times this amount – that is, between $460 and $550 a year, or as much as $10,000 over a ten-year period.
Massachusetts stakeholders are still in the process of determining if and how these findings will be incorporated into the cost-effectiveness testing process. But the state’s commitment to developing high-quality, balanced tests suggests that the research will be used. If and when that happens, the Bay State will provide a useful example for other jurisdictions that recognize that energy upgrades create real health benefits, but have not yet found a method to monetize them.
Written by Robin LeBaron
Senior Advisor for Policy & Research
Home Performance Coalition