SARASOTA COUNTY – Low-income residents could cut their energy and water costs by more than $150 per year under a new Sarasota County program launching this summer.
The Energy Upgrade program will combine education, consulting, and in-home energy evaluations to help reduce energy and water use for Sarasota County families struggling with housing costs.
“We are excited to launch this new volunteer program which will combine grant funding, county expertise, and volunteer passion and commitment to positively impact some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Lee Hayes Byron, director of the county’s UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability Department, which will manage the program. “By reducing ongoing costs for utilities in affordable housing, the program will support financial stability for families, while also reducing energy use and air pollution for the community as a whole.”
Studies show that more than 53,000 low-income families in Sarasota County are “cost burdened,” spending upward of 30 percent of monthly income on housing costs. The county aims to reach at least 2,000 of these households when the Energy Upgrade program launches.
The program will target low-income residents, focusing on those living in older, less-efficient homes across Sarasota County. The lowest-income residents in Sarasota County spend up to 19 percent of their income solely on energy bills, according to studies. By contrast, county homeowners and renters with incomes above the area median spend just 2-3 percent of their income on energy.
Volunteers will play a crucial role in the Energy Upgrade program, acting as “Energy Coaches” who conduct in-home energy evaluations and offer education and advice on no- and low-cost energy upgrades. Anyone interested in becoming an Energy Coach must attend hands-on training across five sessions, beginning July 19.
This program is part of the county’s efforts to support housing affordability and financial stability for our residents most in need. Helping 2,000 low-income residents to reduce their utility bills is estimated to save $334,000 per year total for participating families, and also will improve air quality and reduce local emissions of carbon dioxide by 2,900 metric tons annually, roughly the same as removing 621 passenger vehicles from the roads.
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