mini split outside
Mini-split system at the home of ESN client Antonio Garcia

Energy Savers Network is expanding its efforts to provide energy efficiency upgrades to low-income residents of Buncombe County by repairing or replacing the heat pumps of qualified houses at no cost to the homeowners.

The new offering from Energy Savers Network (ESN) is possible thanks to a $10,000 grant from Bank of America Charitable Foundation and a matching grant from a private donor. The grants will support ESN’s ongoing efforts to provide energy-saving upgrades to local low-income homes, as well as to fund the pilot of the new heat-pump initiative that strategically targets support to residents with the greatest energy burdens.

“In examining client energy costs, we have concluded that the greatest energy burdens, as much as 30 percent of winter month income, come from homes where the primary heating source is electric resistance heat, oil, propane, or malfunctioning electric heat pumps,” said Energy Savers Network Operations Coordinator Steffi Rausch. “Unfortunately, these clients on limited incomes are not financially able to resolve these problems. By addressing this energy burden, we can help our most vulnerable residents, often members of marginalized groups, while reducing carbon pollution and advancing our region’s energy goals in a cost-effective manner that provides benefits over years to come.”

The majority of the new grant funds will be used to directly address this issue by providing upgrades for seven local families, with four households receiving repairs and three other homes benefiting from the installation of new high-efficiency supplemental heat pumps. This up-front investment of $14,000 will pay dividends with estimated savings of approximately $75,000 in utility costs, 724 megawatt hours of energy and 500 tons of carbon-emissions reductions over the expected life of the upgrades.

heat pump replacement
Kelvin Bonilla inspecting an energy-efficient Mini-Split Heat Pump on the outside of a house.

These new projects are being funded by grants, including a generous gift from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which focuses on addressing issues fundamental to economic mobility and social progress in low- and moderate-income communities. 

“Bank of America is lending, investing and giving in local communities in order to advance local economies and create positive change,” said David Dowd, Asheville market executive for Bank of America. “Providing support to organizations like Green Built Alliance and Energy Savers Network that are providing critical services and programs is just one of the ways we are helping improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. “

Housed at the nonprofit Green Built Alliance and operating under the umbrella of its Blue Horizons Project, ESN is exploring opportunities to expand this program further, including through its recent application to receive a portion of the Coronavirus recovery funding available to Buncombe County. If approved, this funding request would also support an expansion of Blue Horizons Project’s successful Neighbor to Neighbor solar program, which is providing free or discounted solar arrays to 13 low-income Buncombe County homes this year.

“We believe these projects are eligible for recovery funds because they help the county achieve multiple strategic goals including supporting low-income households that have been deeply affected by the pandemic.” Green Built Alliance Executive Director Sam Ruark said. “We hope our commissioners and staff will support a great expansion of this initiative, and we also welcome additional funds through private donations or grants.”

heat pump operation diagram
How Does a Heat Pump Work? Read Full article at


Energy Savers Network’s mission is to conserve the environment and mitigate climate change by mobilizing our community to help low-income residents reduce energy use and save money. ESN has provided energy-efficiency upgrades to more than 700 low-income families since 2017 by installing measures including LED lights, water-saving fixtures, interior storm windows, water heater wraps, and blower-door assisted air sealing. ESN also provides health and safety upgrades. To learn more or get involved as a donor or volunteer, visit

ESN is seeking an HVAC maintenance and equipment contractor to partner on this effort. Interested parties are encouraged to connect by emailing