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UA professor: Low-income renters losing money on home energy costs

PHOENIX — A University of Arizona professor says many low-income families could be saving themselves hundreds of dollars in utility costs each year.

Gary Pivo, a professor of natural resources and urban planning, said those who rent at low-income apartments often suffer from a lack of energy-efficient features in their buildings such as “double-paned windows, Energy Star appliances — like washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers.”

Pivo said low-income renters could potentially see savings of $200 to $400 annually if the efficiency of their homes were on par with higher-income homes.

In 2011, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that home energy accounts for 17 percent of housing costs for families earning below the national median income, compared to just 13 percent of families living above the median.

Pivo said he would like to see more private investors go into retrofitting homes and apartments to make them more energy efficient, being that the government can only give out limited numbers of energy subsidies and grants.

“Properties that do better in terms of energy efficiency can be more valuable, and actually the mortgages on them can default less often,” the professor said.