Before the Recovery Act was enacted in February 2009, the Action for Boston Community Development (Boston ABCD), an anti poverty agency that serves the Greater Boston area, was weatherizing about 100 homes a year.

David MacLellan
A Recovery Act grant has dramatically changed those numbers. The stimulus funding means that the Boston ABCD weatherization budget is increasing from $690,000 annually to $10 million over a three-year period and will enable the agency to weatherize 1,800 homes over the three-year period of the grant.

Recovery Act Impact: Boston ABCD Weatherization

  • Total stimulus funding: $10 million

  • Ability to weatherize 1,800 homes

  • Services include insulation, air sealing and heating upgrades

  • Residents save an average of 30% on their fuel bills

"We have tens of thousands of potential customers," said David MacLellan, Director of Conservation Services for Boston ABCD. "Now we're able to serve many more customers and every customer we serve will use less energy and it will reduce their environmental and fiscal impact. They will also be more comfortable."

New Heating System
MacLellan estimates that the payback on all the weatherization measures they do is about three years. On average, every home weatherized saves the residents about 30 percent on their fuel bills. "Every year after that, you're making money," said MacLellan. "It's a great investment. Every dollar going into the program is creating savings, for the homeowner and for the environment. That is what stimulus is doing; it is creating better lives and saving money. And that doesn't begin to cover the additional benefits."

Benefits like a safer house. According to MacLellan, the energy audit which his department conducts to determine the weatherization needs of the house will

Paulette Whittaker
often indicate the house needs better insulation, a new heating system or new doors. But they also find out other things that could become serious safety issues, such as unsafe carbon monoxide levels or asbestos or mold or unsafe wiring. "People don't realize it's in their house," he said. "By being in the home we find these things."

Paulette Whittaker, a widow who lives in Dorchester with her daughter, was freezing in her own home. Her windows were so drafty, she had put plastic over them but her heating bills were still very high. "Everything was going out those windows," she said.

She went to Boston ABCD for fuel assistance and was told she might qualify for weatherization services also. She did and the energy audit indicated that her old heating system was also to blame for her high bills. A new furnace and insulation not only keep Whittaker warm but also keep her bills manageable.

"We are dealing with low income families and if customers don't have heat often their homes become unbearable," noted MacLellan.

Boston ABCD Weatherization group
"The pipes will break, there could be mold and water leakage and the costs cascade into where we can't afford to do anything about it and now you have a house that's unlivable. The idea is to get somebody in the house and help them with their energy issues and make them more comfortable and fix these things before it becomes a big problem."

A house that's unlivable doesn't just impact the family it renders homeless; it impacts the whole neighborhood. "A house that is taken care of and is safe and secure helps to keep a neighborhood safe and secure," said MacLellan. "When people have to move out and the house becomes abandoned property, criminals could come in; the house could get boarded up. By providing some services at the front end, it keeps people in their homes and stops the neighborhood from falling into disrepair."

For MacLellan, there is no greater proof of the success of the program than the stack of thank you letters on his desk. "For so many people, this has made a huge difference in their lives," he said.