Residential Energy Efficiency & Assistance
When working to create a regional climate plan, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus noticed that residential buildings were a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Caucus thought that it was time to look at the residential sector and assist with the energy burden that some households face, which has been made worse during the pandemic. Energy burden is the percentage of household income spent on energy costs. Home energy costs that are under 6% of gross household income are considered "affordable" by researchers. Households that are paying more than 6% of their income on energy costs face a "high energy burden" and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Low-income families in Illinois face a severe energy burden because they spend an average of 13% of their income on energy costs. A household that is energy burdened may need to decide whether to pay for their utility bills or buy medicine and other necessities, which can result in serious consequences.
In addition to reducing GHG emissions and alleviating the energy burden for households, the project is aligned with the Greenest Region Compact (GRC) goal to "engage the community in clean energy practices" and the following two GRC Objectives:
- E30: Partner with utilities to promote energy efficiency programs to the community
- E33: Collaborate to educate the community about clean energy options by providing information and communication materials on various programs, the Caucus aims to:
- spread awareness about energy efficiency, emergency assistance programs, and renewable energy
- increase the region's energy literacy
- help residents, especially low-income residents and older adults, who may have a higher energy burden
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP)
- Helping Hand Program
- Free Home Energy Assessments
- ComEd Hourly Pricing
- ComEd Smart Thermostat Rebates in 2021
- Nicor Equipment Rebates in 2021
- Nicor Rebates for Air Sealing and Insulation in 2021
- Nicor Free Water-Saving & Weatherization Kits
LIHEAP is an income-based annual block grant that assists residents in paying for winter energy bills. If eligible, a payment will be sent directly to the utility on behalf of a household. If a household's combined gross income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for the 30 days prior to the application, the household may be eligible for assistance. (Please see the below table.) For renters, if heat and/or electric is included in rent, then the rent must be greater than 30% of a resident's income in order for the resident to be eligible. The application period is through May 31, 2021, or until funds are exhausted, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).
To apply for income-eligible assistance, call the Community Action Partnership of Lake County at 847-249-4330 to schedule a phone call appointment.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) administers the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP), which provides free weatherization upgrades to low-income households. These weatherization services make homes more energy-efficient, which reduces the amount of energy needed to keep homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Residents can apply if their annual income is at or below 200% of the poverty level (see chart below). If eligible, an Energy Assessor will record information about the home and use a computerized energy audit program to determine which weatherization measures should be prioritized. Contractors will then complete the most cost-effective weatherization work, including health and safety measures. To apply, contact the community action agency or local administering agency in your area.
Some of the weatherization services that can be funded through IHWAP include:
- Air sealing
- Attic and wall insulation
- HVAC repair or replacement
- Water heater repair or replacement
- Electric base load reduction (lighting and refrigerator replacement)
- Ventilation and moisture control measures (and other health and safety measures
If you are struggling with expensive utility bills, the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) provides free weatherization upgrades to low-income households. These weatherization services make homes more energy-efficient, which reduces a household’s energy usage as well as saves money.
Some IHWAP services include air sealing, attic and wall insulation, HVAC repair or replacement, water heater repair or replacement, and more. Households with a combined gross income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line may be eligible. For more information, visit the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity website
**Note: The Community Partnership of Lake County website states that home weatherization assistance is not available until further notice. However, they are still actively taking applications. Services may be a bit delayed.
For more information, visit the Community Action Partnership of Lake County website and call 847-249-4330 to schedule an appointment.
ComEd's new Helping Hand program will provide the most in-need customers with a one-time grant of up to $300 toward a past-due balance. The program is available until funds are exhausted. Eligible households must have a gross income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level and express one of the following concerns:
- Unexpected loss of income or reduction in income (including job loss or furlough)
- Sudden illness to you or family member
- Other COVID-19 impacts
To apply, fill out the application on the ComEd Helping Hand webpage or call 1-800-3347-7661 and ask about the Helping Hand Program.
If your winter utility bills have been high, then an in-home energy assessment could help you to save money. ComEd has partnered with Nicor Gas to offer customers free in-home or virtual energy assessments. As part of the assessment, an energy advisor will walk through your home and install energy-efficient products for free that will save you money, such as LED light bulbs. For virtual assessments, the products will be sent to you.
A list of the free products that are offered during the home energy assessment are shown below. Certain restrictions apply.
- ComEd will replace incandescent and halogen light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® certified LED bulbs.
- ComEd will replace manual thermostats with free programmable thermostats.
- Smart thermostats are available for purchase at a discount and include free installation.
- Customers can upgrade their showerheads or faucet aerators with energy-efficient products to save water.
- Up to 6 feet of hot water pipe insulation will be installed.
- Advanced power strips are available for purchase at a discount. Advanced power strips help consumers to ensure that when electronics are plugged in and not in use, they are not drawing power and driving up energy costs.
Customers will also receive a free personalized report, which shows the estimated annual savings from the products that were installed and additional ways that residents can save money.
Eligible customers for the home energy assessments include residents who live in single-family homes, two-flats, condos, and townhomes. Renters in these building types are also eligible, with permission from their landlord. Multi-family building energy assessments are offered for landlords or property managers. Tenants who live in these buildings are encouraged to let their landlords or property managers know about this energy-saving program.
To schedule a free energy assessment, go to ComEd’s Energy Assessments webpage or call 855-433-2700.
If you are interested in saving money and able to shift some of your electricity use to off-peak times, then switching to hourly pricing could reduce your monthly electric bill. The ComEd Hourly Pricing program may be a good option if your electric bill is over $50 and if you are able to switch some of your usage to lower-priced times, such as doing laundry or running the dishwasher at night or on weekends. Typical households have saved an average of 15% on the supply portion of their bill compared to what they would have paid with the standard ComEd fixed-price rate.
If you receive your electricity supply from ComEd, then you can choose whether to pay the current fixed-price rate or to pay an hourly market price that varies based on demand. The current ComEd fixed-price supply charge is 5.853 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), but the Hourly Pricing rates are often lower. For example, the real-time monthly average prices in 2020 ranged from 1.5 cents to 2.4 cents per kWh. To see what the real-time price is on any given day, month, or year, go to https://hourlypricing.comed.com/live-prices. For more information on whether the program is right for you, please go to https://hourlypricing.comed.com/ or call ComEd’s Hourly Pricing specialists at 888-202-7787. Some of the frequently asked questions are listed below.
Q: When are hourly prices low?
A: Hourly prices are often low in the fall, winter, and spring. During the summer, prices are usually cheaper during the early morning, evening, and weekend hours. Higher prices occur when there is an increased demand for electricity, such as on a hot summer afternoon.
Q: What customers may benefit from the hourly pricing program?
A:In addition to ComEd customers who pay over $50 for their monthly bill or can shift some of their usage to low-demand times, people who heat their home with electricity may benefit from the program.
Electric vehicle owners who charge at home may also be interested in signing up because the hourly prices are typically low overnight and sometimes even are negative for short periods of time. If the electricity supply is much greater than the demand, the price may become negative for brief periods, which means you will actually get paid to use electricity at this time. Delivery charges still apply.
Q: Do I need anything to sign up for hourly pricing?
A: You will need a smart meter that measures hourly usage. Although many ComEd customers already have a smart meter, you can be sure that you have one if the meter number on your ComEd bill starts with a “2” and is nine digits long. If you do not have a smart meter, there is no fee for ComEd to exchange your current meter for a smart meter, if you only have one meter at your residence.
Q: How will I know when electricity prices will be high, so I can reduce my usage during those times?
A: If you join the Hourly Pricing program, you will have the option to receive alerts about high prices via text message, email, or automated phone call. You can also find out about real-time prices for the day and the next day (after 5 p.m. CT) by going to https://hourlypricing.comed.com/live-prices or calling ComEd Hourly Pricing specialists at 888-202-7787.
Q: How do I enroll?
A: Enroll online at https://hourlypricing.comed.com/enroll or by calling 888-202-7787. It typically takes between one to three billing cycles before you become active in ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program.
Q: What if I sign up for Hourly Pricing, but I want to leave the program?
A: Participants can leave Hourly Pricing at any time, but they will not be able to sign up again for 12 months after termination.
Q: Are there environmental or other benefits of Hourly Pricing?
A: By switching your energy use to lower-priced hours, it helps to reduce demand during peak times when the use of older, less efficient generation facilities is often needed. By decreasing the use of these less efficient facilities, you will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
Additionally, Hourly Pricing can help to ease the stress on the grid during peak times, which may prevent power outages from occurring.
Residents who purchase an ENERGY STAR smart thermostat through 12/31/21 can receive a $100 rebate from ComEd. Smart thermostats connect to a home's Wi-Fi and allow users to control the temperature from web-enabled devices, whether they're in another room or not at home. For more information on receiving this rebate, go to the ComEd Smart Thermostat Rebates page.
For free installation of a smart thermostat, residents may want to consider scheduling a free in-home energy assessment through ComEd.
Residents who purchase and install certain energy-efficient furnaces, boilers or smart thermostats in 2021 may be eligible for a Nicor rebate.
For furnaces with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 97% or above, a $275 rebate is available for projects completed from 1/1/21 to 3/31/21. If the AFUE is 95% or above, a $250 rebate is offered through 3/31/21. (For projects completed on or after 4/1/21, the rebates are $225 for 97% AFUE furnace and $200 for 95% AFUE furnace)
For residential-sized boilers with an input capacity of less than 300 MBTUH, a $350 rebate is offered if the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is 95% or above.
A $25 rebate is available for ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostats.
For more details or to apply for a rebate, go to the Nicor Rebates webpage or call Nicor at 877-886-4239. Applications must be submitted within 90 days of installation or by 1/31/22, whichever comes first.
Nicor offers air sealing and insulation rebates
Nicor Gas is providing rebates to residents who make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes in 2021. Nicor is offering up to $400 for air sealing, up to $300 for attic insulation, up to $500 for duct sealing, and up to $400 for wall insulation.
In order to receive these rebates, the work must be performed by a Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program approved contractor. The contractor will apply an instant rebate to your invoice.
The details of the rebates are shown below:
• For air sealing, Nicor Gas customers can receive $0.40 per CFM50 reduction for a total of up to $400. CFM50 is a measure of air leakage in the home.
• For attic insulation, residents can receive a rebate of $0.30 per square foot, up to $300, if the existing attic insulation does not exceed R14, or approximately 6 inches. The attic air sealing must be completed to Building Performance Institute (BPI) standards to qualify for the rebate.
• For duct sealing, rebates of $2 per CFM25 reduction are offered. The maximum rebate is $500. To qualify for this rebate, at least 50% of the ducts must be located in an unconditioned space, or 70% of the ducts must be in a semi-conditioned space.
• For exterior wall and foundation wall insulation, Nicor is providing rebates of $0.50 per square foot, up to $400. A home’s existing wall insulation may not exceed R5, and walls must be insulated to at least R13. Wall insulation is not available as a stand-alone rebate. To qualify for the rebate, one of the following conditions must be met:
o The project includes qualifying air sealing.
o Air sealing and attic insulation has been previously completed through the Nicor Gas and ComEd Home Energy Savings Program.
For more information about the Nicor air sealing and insulation rebates, go to Nicor Rebates or call the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program at 877-886-4239.
Receive a Free Water-Saving Kit or Free Weatherization Kit
Nicor Gas customers can order a free water-saving kit or up to two free weatherization kits. Before ordering these free kits, customers should have their Nicor Gas account number and ZIP code handy. If customers cannot locate their account number, contact Nicor Gas at 877-886-4239 and a representative will place the order. For more details, visit the Nicor Gas Free Products and Services webpage.
The free water-saving kits include:
• 1 or 2 low-flow showerheads
• 1 or 2 bathroom faucet aerators
• 1 dual-spray kitchen faucet aerator
• Shower timer
• Plumber’s tape
The free weatherization kits include:
• 12-pack of outlet and switch foam gasket
• 17’ roll of closed-cell foam tape weather-stripping
• 17’ roll of V-seal type weather-stripping
• Self-adhesive door sweep
• 30’ roll of rope caulk
DCEO administers the LIHEAP program. Residents can apply for LIHEAP by contacting their local community action agency (CAA) or administering agency, based on their county. Contacting the CAA directly is the fastest method. Another way to apply is by filling out a pre-application at Helpillinoisfamilies.com and waiting for a call back from a local agency, but this could take anywhere from days to weeks. If a resident is considering LIHEAP, it is recommended to apply because being eligible for LIHEAP can be an indication that an individual is eligible for other income-qualified programs. Income-eligible undocumented workers may also apply for LIHEAP.