High Energy Burdens in Low-Income Households

October 11th, 2016

high energy burdens

During the Pittsburgh Be Utility Wise Conference held two weeks ago, we discussed how utility bills are a crippling financial challenge for many low-income households and those facing a financial hardship. Christina Chase-Pettis, Senior Communications Specialist at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, illustrated how to calculate your energy burden.

An energy burden is the percentage of household income that is spent on utility bills. To determine your energy burden, calculate the amount of your annual utility bills and divide that by your annual household income.

Energy Burden = Annual Utility Bills ÷ Annual Household Income

For example: If your household spends $2,000 annually on utility bills, and your annual household income is $20,000, your energy burden is 0.1 or 10%.

Calculating your home energy burden is the first step in understanding what kinds of assistance options are available to you.

A report released in April 2016 by Energy Efficiency For All and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, shows that low-income households pay proportionally more for utilities than the average household. The data they examined showed “that the median energy burden for low-income households is more than two times that of the median household (7.2% and 3.5%, respectively), and three times greater than higher income households (2.3%).” The study also showed that low-income households experience higher energy burdens, not only because of their low incomes, but also because low-income homes tend to be less energy efficient. This causes these struggling families to make difficult decisions, such as sacrificing food and medical care in order to keep their water, heat, and lights on.

This report also references studies which have found that living in homes that are not properly heated or cooled can significantly increase health risks, such as asthma, respiratory problems, heart disease, and arthritis. Families with high energy burdens are also prone to experience more stress due to their inability to afford basic utility service.

Our efforts at Dollar Energy Fund aim to address this national issue that disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, lets us assist more households to afford or restore basic utility services and get on a path to self-sufficiency. Simply adding $1 to your monthly utility bill can make a significant impact on your neighbors in need. Consider donating to Dollar Energy Fund today, and join us in assisting those with high energy burdens.

Source: Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Improve Low Income and Underserved Communities

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