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Energy Improvements Boost Health

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Apr 3, 2014 11:29:00 AM

Photograph of a young boy using an inhaler

An energy-retrofit of 31 single-family homes for low-income families in Baltimore, Md., not only saved energy but also cut down on emergency room visits by 67 percent. Families breathed easier, were healthier, were more comfortable in their homes -- and saved money.

WegoWise, “a leading building performance analytics provider,” partnered with the national Green & Healthy Home Initiative (GHHI) to monitor the homes GHHI retrofitted. GHHI collaborates with local and federal agencies, and philanthropic partners to create green, healthy, and safe homes in low-income communities nationwide.

The Baltimore retrofits saved low-income residents an average of $400 a year in utility costs.  GHHI reports that the typical low-income family spends 14 percent of its income on energy costs compared to 3.5 percent for other households.

The surprise extra of improving energy use and reducing utility costs was the big reduction in emergency-room visits for asthma episodes. WegoWise says the typical emergency-room visit costs more than $6,000. And if the emergency-room asthma visit results in hospitalization, the average cost is $53,000.

Retrofits included some simple things, such as weather-sealing homes. Primary improvements were weatherizing the homes, fixing leaking roofs and replacing aging and inefficient appliances.

GHHI is also using WegoWise to track retrofit results for 115 Rhode Island homes as well as homes in Buffalo, N.Y., and is in the process of expanding its use of WegoWise to track utility data in more homes in Baltimore and other cities GHHI serves nationwide.

The WegoWise system automatically collects utility data over the Internet so that retrofitted buildings can be tracked by energy use and building characteristics. Charts and graphs help GHHI staff to immediately judge success. WegoWise collected home utility data for two years on the 31-home Baltimore pilot project.

Barun Singh, founder and CTO of WegoWise said, “We’re proud to support a program that saves families thousands of dollars per year in medical bills, helps kids miss less school and puts utility bill money back in families’ pockets. The staff at organizations like GHHI have more important things to do than enter utility data into spreadsheets.”

 Image: Courtesy NIH.gov


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