Spring 2012 www.metroplanning.org

Forget your IQ. The more lucrative question is whether you know your home’s EQ! While all Chicago region residents can go to www.myhomeeq.com to determine their energy quotient (EQ) by comparing their utility expenses to those of their neighbors, a lucky few also can leverage employer assistance to renovate their homes and reduce those utility expenses by at least 15 percent. 

Through a new twist on Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) known as Home Energy Renovations for Employees (HERE), the south suburban Thornton Township helped its first employee make home improvements to reduce energy waste and utility bills and make his home more comfortable. 

New Home Energy Renovations for Employees initiative helps employees reduce home energy costs

Adding insulation is one of the best ways to improve a home's energy efficiency.

Jack Amick (flickr)

Thornton Township is one of more than 70 northeastern Illinois employers to offer EAH, but is among the first to provide the energy renovation assistance, a new weatherization program funded through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's (CMAP) new Energy Impact Illinois program. Thornton Township launched a combined EAH and Home Energy Renovations for Employees benefit program in August 2011, offering (a) employee homebuyers with up to $5,000 in downpayment assistance to purchase a home; and (b) existing employee homeowners up to $6,000 to renovate their home in the name of energy efficiency. 

Through Home Energy Renovations for Employees, participating employers can leverage a dollar-for-dollar match for up to $3,000 per employee helped to make energy-efficiency home improvements, such as new weather stripping, insulation, and lighting. The employee can secure a total of $6,000 as a result. Funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), these matching funds are just a small part of Energy Impact Illinois' broader efforts to bolster the green economy, promote sustainability, and help businesses and residences reduce their energy use. 

“Employers with Home Energy Renovations for Employees programs not only are helping their employees save energy and money, they’re also helping to reduce air pollution and boost the economy in metropolitan Chicago,” said CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn. “Clearly, this is an investment not just in houses and the families who live in them, but also in the long-term sustainability of our entire region.”

Insulation is often added to existing homes by blowing it in.

CNT Energy

Sustainability is a growing concern for employers, many of whom have developed comprehensive corporate sustainability programs to save natural resources at work and help employees do the same at home. The Home Energy Renovations for Employees program is a perfect fit for employers who want to offer competitive benefits while advancing sustainability objectives. 

For instance, Thornton is offering the Home Energy Renovations for Employees program because many homes in the community were built prior to 1950; improving the energy efficiency of the local housing stock will help Thornton achieve its green goals.

“As a community, we are committed to reducing Thornton’s overall carbon footprint, and we know buildings are the main culprit of energy consumption. As an employer, we wanted to help our employees live in the community they serve,” said Thornton Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli. “By combining Home Energy Renovations for Employees and EAH, we are able to work toward both goals.”

As for employees, the benefits are clear: A more energy-efficient home keeps money in a homeowner’s pocket. To put a finer point on it, the average Illinois household spends $3,000 per year on energy. Making energy-efficiency improvements generally can reduce these costs by 15 to 30 percent – that’s $450 to $900 per year.

Lower bills also can mean less stress – which means a more productive employee: According to Thomas Wright, management professor at Kansas State University, a stressed employee has been found to account for up to $75 in lost productivity per week.

Thornton Township employee and resident Gaye Sleh loves his 44-year-old home – but not high energy bills or the stress they cause in his daily life. Through the Home Energy Renovations for Employees program, Sylvan Energy visited Sleh’s home and conducted an energy audit, to identify areas where the home was leaking air (and therefore, raising heating and air conditioning costs) and to recommend steps to insulate and seal the home. Smart Sealed made several improvements, including adding insulation, air sealing the attic, and replacing broken windows. These improvements are projected to save $517 annually in lower utility bills.

The Bottom Line

As more employers are seeking ways to educate employees about sustainability and help them make a difference in their own lives, the Home Energy Renovations for Employees program offers an easy way to help. Contact Tim Grzesiakowski, or check out Energy Impact Illinois, to learn more about the renovation initiative.

To design EAH programs in support of regional foreclosure response initiatives, please visit any of the below sites:


The EAH Advantage is MPC's quarterly e-newsletter about Employer-Assisted Housing.

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