Helping Houstonians beat the heat

When a group of Baker Institute interns and students involved with Rice University's Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) discovered that only 36 percent of qualifying households were participating in the City of Houston's Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP), they were determined to find out why. REEP, a free program made available through the city, uses different techniques to protect homes from the elements and to optimize energy efficiency. These adjustments include caulking windows, installing attic insulation, sealing doors and other energy conservation techniques that mitigate the effects of weather on a home.

Under the supervision of Robert Stein, Lena Grohlman Fox Professor of Political Science; Stephanie Post, executive director of the CCE; and Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies, the students conducted a telephone survey of Sharpstown, an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Houston where many qualifying residents live. Their findings suggest that economic benefits, such as lower energy bills and higher resale value of weatherized homes, are most attractive to potential participants.

The students also provide recommendations for the city to generate interest in REEP, including highlighting financial perks, making more information available on the Internet and asking participants to install yard signs to help publicize the program to their neighbors.

Support for this study was generously provided by the Baker Institute, the Center for Civic Engagement, and the Environmental Defense Fund.