Throughout the US, homeowners are taking proactive, meaningful steps to moderate their home’s energy use and lower their carbon footprint. Since buildings alone are responsible for 40% of the energy used in the US, reducing the amount used by both single-family and multi-family homes is one of the best ways to combat global climate change and make communities cleaner.

Several states are leading the charge. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) names Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York as the six states with the best overall approach toward energy-efficient policies and action. It’s no coincidence that these six states are also some of the nation’s best when it comes to offering home energy assistance programs to homeowners – n particular, to low-income homeowners who might otherwise be left out of the energy upgrade conversation.

The top six contains both large (California, New York) and small (Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut) states, as well as some of the nation’s largest cities (New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles). Putting aside these differences, one of the most interesting aspects of the top six states is that they are all doing similar things. In other words, they provide a blueprint for other states to follow. This article explores what some of these states are offering and why it matters.



The Golden State is working toward an ambitious goal of reaching zero net energy by 2020 for all residential buildings. To get to that goal, they have launched a number of home energy assistance programs, including the California Hub for Energy Efficiency Financing (CHEEF). CHEEF helps single-family homes, apartments, and commercial buildings get the loan capital needed for energy-efficient retrofits and improvements. By partnering with electric utilities, the program brings innovative features to these programs, such as allowing loans to be repaid through  utility bills. Low-income families often have trouble accessing affordable loan options and CHEEF is a big help.

Beyond connecting homeowners with financing, California has a wide variety of rebate and grant programs accessible to all kinds of homes throughout the state. These are offered through an even more diverse collection of municipalities, utilities, counties, and other government and non-government organizations.

Take San Francisco, for instance. The gateway to the Pacific is a leader in helping local homeowners improve their home’s energy-efficiency through programs like Energy Watch and the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN). BayREN provides upgrade options and incentives while also helping connect homeowners to certified energy advisors and contractors throughout the Bay Area.



On the other side of the country, Boston is also a leader when it comes to helping homeowners upgrade their homes. In particular, many of the programs and incentives offered by the state, municipalities, and utilities are focused on making sure low-income residents are not left out of the green energy revolution. One such initiative is the Low-Income Single-Family Core Initiative (LISFCI), which provides low-income homeowners with free insulation, air sealing, and lighting solutions to help cut their energy use.


New York

Similar to the CHEEF program in California, the New York Green Bank helps connect the state’s homeowners with investment dollars and financing. This innovative program isn’t a loss-leader for the state either. In 2017, the bank was actually in the black, turning a $2.7m profit. Much like Massachusetts, New York also offers assistance to low-income families through small changes that can make a big difference in total energy costs such as adding insulation, sealing ductwork, and upgrading refrigerators, thermostats, and lights.

Here is something that probably is not surprising: New York City, the nation’s largest city, is also an energy-efficiency leader. The city offers tax incentives for green roofs and solar panels, and many of the utilities that serve the city offer generous rebate programs for homeowners who make their homes more energy-efficient.


What does your state have to offer?

No matter where you live, you can find help to reduce energy use and save money. The first step is to contact your electric or gas utility, propane or fuel oil supplier. Ask them about local energy efficiency or weatherization assistance.

Next, use the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) to discover  all the options available to you in your state. For a detailed look at all the policies and incentives in each state, you can also check out the ACEEE’s database, which provides a breakdown for each state and the major cities within them.


Sandra Wood is the energy master communications specialist at Allbritten, a professional home energy auditing company in Fresno, California. She has been working in the residential and commercial energy industry for almost 10 years. She really enjoys researching and writing about anything related to energy efficiency and helping homeowners and facility managers become more energy efficient.