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Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

Evidence Rating

Some Evidence

Health Factors

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is a program of the US Department of Energy that assists low income families in making their homes more energy efficient and permanently reducing energy bills. The program often supports insulation of walls and attics, air sealing, ventilation improvements, furnace repair and replacement, and refrigerator replacement (Tonn 2014). Federal funds are allocated to each state based on the percentage of low income residents, climatic conditions (heating and cooling degree-days), and residential energy expenditures by low income households (US DOE-WAP Formula). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Improved health outcomes

  • Improved well-being

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased energy efficiency

  • Reduced energy expenditures

  • Improved mental health

  • Reduced absenteeism

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) improves health and well-being by increasing warmth through insulation and energy efficiency measures for low income families (Tonn 2014). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of the program overall.

Housing improvements that increase warmth have shown consistent positive effects on well-being and health (Thomson 2015, , Curl 2015, Howden-Chapman 2007), including respiratory, mental health, and self-rated general health. Such improvements have also been shown to reduce children’s absences from school, adult absences from work, doctor’s visits, and hospitalizations (Thomson 2015, Howden-Chapman 2007).

Cost benefit analysis shows a high value return for the cost of retrofitting homes with insulation () and reports suggest WAP generates significant annual household energy and cost savings (average of 30.5 million BTUs per year and about $437 per year depending on fuel prices) (Schweitzer 2005, US DOE-WAP).  By reducing spending on heating needs, WAP may increase food security (Tonn 2014) and decrease the need for other government assistance related to high-energy heating needs (). 

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

The federal Weatherization Assistance Program is available in all states. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has an interactive database map of state and local energy-efficient policies and programs, which includes information on the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP) (ACEEE-Energy policies).

Implementation Resources

US DOE-WAP - US Department of Energy (US DOE). Weatherization assistance program (WAP).

ACEEE-SmarterHouse - American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). SmarterHouse: an up-to-date guide on energy savings in the home.

WAP-NH - New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning. Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) frequently asked questions.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Chapman 2009* - Chapman R, Howden-Chapman P, Viggers H, O’Dea D, Kennedy M. Retrofitting houses with insulation: A cost-benefit analysis of a randomised community trial. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2009;63(4):271-7.

Howden-Chapman 2007 - Howden-Chapman P, Matheson A, Crane J, et al. Effect of insulating existing houses on health inequality: Cluster randomized study in the community. BMJ. 2007;334(7591):460.

Schweitzer 2005 - Schweitzer M. Estimating the national effects of the US Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program with state-level data: A meta-evaluation using studies from 1993 to 2005. Oak Ridge: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); 2005: ORNL/CON-493.

Tonn 2003* - Tonn B, Schmoyer R, Wagner S. Weatherizing the homes of low-income home energy assistance program clients: A programmatic assessment. Energy Policy. 2003;31(8):735-44.

US DOE-WAP - US Department of Energy (US DOE). Weatherization assistance program (WAP).

Thomson 2015 - Thomson H, Thomas S. Developing empirically supported theories of change for housing investment and health. Social Science & Medicine. 2015;124:205-214.

Curl 2015 - Curl A, Kearns A. Can housing improvements cure or prevent the onset of health conditions over time in deprived areas? BMC Public Health. 2015;15(1):1191.

Maidment 2014* - Maidment CD, Jones CR, Webb TL, Hathway EA, Gilbertson JM. The impact of household energy efficiency measures on health: A meta-analysis. Energy Policy. 2014;65:583-593.

Tonn 2014 - Tonn B, Rose E, Hawkins B, Conlon B. Health and household-related benefits attributable to the Weatherization Assistance Program. Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed by UT-Battelle for the US Department of Energy (US DOEnergy); 2014.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

ACEEE-Energy policies - American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). State and local policy database of energy efficiency policies and programs.

Date Last Updated

Aug 29, 2017