Smart Energy: June 2016

Energy Assistance for Low-Income Households

By Randy Magnuson

At UCAN we have two programs energy assistance and weatherization. Programs that assist low-income households throughout Douglas County, which is why when we were invited to participate in the DC Smart Energy coalition we were both excited and honored. The opportunity to work with a broad spectrum of professionals is rewarding, informative and since we have the same determination to reduce energy costs and improve the quality of life here in Douglas County it will contribute to the continued success of UCAN’s energy assistance and weatherization programs.

Now that we are fast approaching spring, we are not thinking of high energy costs due to the cold, we are looking forward to warm spring days, and lower energy bills. There are a few things you can do now that will reduce your energy costs throughout the year.  A simple energy-saving suggestion is to replace just five of the most frequently used lightbulbs in your house with energy saving LEDs. Some last so long that the LED you put in your baby’s room today won’t need changing until she graduates high school.

Harness the heat of the sun by leaving your curtains open during the day to let the sunshine in and closing them as the sun goes down. You might be surprised at how much heat you gain. If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system check your furnace filter monthly and replacing it every three months or sooner. These simple energy saving suggestions are a great way to begin reducing some of your energy costs.

UCAN is part of a nationwide Weatherization Assistance Program. WAP was designed to assist vulnerable populations, with its focus aimed at elderly persons, persons with disabilities, families with children in the home and those with high-energy burdens. This investment in energy efficiency and health and safety is helping families in energy crisis across the country. Producing lower energy bills, more comfortable and safe homes, and affecting the economic through job creation.

Since WAP was started back in 1976 the program has assisted more than 7 million families nationwide lowering their energy bills by hundreds of dollars a year, and improving the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens. For every dollar invested in weatherization, $4.50 was generated in energy and non-energy benefits. There is always room to grow and improve. DOE (Department of Energy) is building on the success UCAN and other agencies around the country have had, and are tracking these results to improve the tools used to prioritize measures and further develop the program for low-income families, these may soon even include solar energy as an energy type.

But WAP achieves much more than helping low-income households lower their energy bills. While we are in the homes installing energy savings measures, we also address health and safety issues by fixing broken windows, replacing faulty water heaters, repairing roofs as well as other protective measures. These non-energy measures benefit the health and safety of those households with reduced costs related to asthma, cold weather stress, heat weather stress, carbon monoxide, reduced fires, better prescription use, reduction of missed days of work, and the reduced need of food assistance. These costs of non-energy measures are not designed to be cost effective from an energy efficiency point of view, they are done to protect the health and safety of the families served by this program.

UCAN always says helping people, Improving Lives, we do this with our Energy Assistance and our WAP program and are rewarded by the positive results that our clients and community reaps. As the WAP program continues to evolve towards even greater energy efficiency, addressing continued health and safety concerns, the information and partnership we share with the members of DC Smart Energy will contribute to the future of weatherization and energy efficiency, for our community.

Randy Magnuson is employed by UCAN and assists with Energy Assistance and Weatherization Programs. For more information about UCAN please visit

For tips and other ways to save and produce energy, visit  Douglas County Smart Energy is a project of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition.  For more information about the coalition, call 541-672-9819 or find them on Facebook at Douglas County Global Warming Coalition.