The Cost of Home Energy as Percent of Income

I was preparing for a presentation for Energy Awareness month and came across a startling statistic from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about the amount of net income that goes toward paying utilities.
 

The income level percent of net income for utilities is:

  • The U.S. median for working Americans……………… 4 percent
  • Social Security –  elderly………………………………….19 percent
  • Social Security (DE, IL, VT)…………………………….. 25 percent
  • American Families with Dependent Children…………..26 percent

For those of us who are in the fortunate group of wage earners (4%ers) this is reasonable but when you look at fixed and low income homeowners; this is shocking. Keep in mind that energy is the most volatile of utilities and is related to heating, air conditioning, water (don’t forget that cleaning and transporting water takes energy), cooking, and everything you plug into the wall. 

For these reasons, energy efficiency is critical in order to insulate the group of people on fixed incomes from the volatility of market prices.  For the most part these groups understand the need to conserve energy. They are, generally, much more disciplined regarding turning off lights or waiting to turn on the heat or air conditioning. Think about the last time you saw your Grandparents waste energy (other than lighting 80 candles on a birthday cake.)

In a previous blog about Aging in Place, which is the movement among older Americans to remain in their homes as long as possible, we discussed the benefits of low maintenance products for the home.  This energy statistic provides a wake up call for many of us to take advantage now of making energy upgrades in the home in order to minimize energy usage as we approach retirement age. If you are one of the lucky 4%ers, use your income now to get energy efficient while you can still pay for it. If you wait until retirement to get efficient, you may not be able to afford to do so once you get there.

 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation