Self-Help Shares

Making Rentals More Affordable with Energy Efficiency

By staff
  | Mar 31, 2022

 Affordable housing becomes much less affordable if the house comes with high energy costs. Self-Help recently completed renovations on four houses in eastern North Carolina, and has more under renovation now, all with a focus on energy efficiency.  


The houses that Self-Help renovated are modest single-family homes and duplexes located near downtown Rocky Mount, NC. Bank of America provided low-cost capital that allowed us to ensure these renovations in Rocky Mount were well equipped for energy efficiency. By lowering utility costs for residents, we help address the burden that home energy costs from inefficient equipment and drafty spaces place on many low-wealth families. Thirteen percent of U.S. households are severely energy-burdened, paying more than 10% of their income on energy, and 25% of households pay over 6% of their income on energy bills.*  

Our renovation plan started with a science-based understanding of how houses use energy. For each of the four houses, we:

  • Tightened houses against air leaks to prevent wasting heated or cooled air.
  • Ensured good exhaust fans for indoor air quality. 
  • Replaced old heating and air equipment and ensured the equipment is right-sized for the house.
  • Specified and confirmed efficient appliances and lighting.
  • Addressed any standing water problems—particularly important in a region where crawlspaces are common.


For tenant Wanda Freeman, the house represents a comfortable refuge where her grandson can come visit and she can work on her crafts projects and puzzles. This summer she plans to start gardening. 

These single-family and duplex renovations join Self-Help’s portfolio of over 225 energy-efficient, affordable housing units in North Carolina. The portfolio includes renovations of dilapidated houses, new construction and transit-friendly mixed use. 
In future years, we will renovate about a half dozen additional rental homes to these high standards, demonstrating that affordable housing can help families stay healthy, avoid wasting energy and save money on monthly bills.    


*How High Are Energy Burdens - An Assessment of National and Metropolitan Energy Burden across the United States. Ariel Drehobl, Lauren Ross, and Roxana Ayala. American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. September, 2020. Retrieved from

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