Sunday, November 4, 2012


     The Streamlined Weatherization Improvements for Tomorrow (or SWIFT) is a program being conducted by the University of North Carolina Charlotte to research and implement ways to save money on energy bills for low-income households.  SWIFT plans to do this by first educating a homeowner in ways to save money and then implementing low cost technology within a household to improve energy efficiency. 

     In my opinion, the most interesting and important part of SWIFT is the "Energy Detective."  The Energy Detective is a low cost piece of technology connected to a weather monitoring source which advises the homeowner when to turn the heat or air conditioning on or off.  This is very important because not only is it a technological advancement that saves the homeowner money, but it also, "helps educate the homeowner about wise energy consumption choices, while giv[ing] the researchers data about actual consumption."  This fits into the aim of the program to help low income households through innovations that, "are both technical and administrative."

     To understand the macro benefits of the SWIFT program we must first look closer at the problem.  According to the Chicago Tribune there, "are indicators of a growing problem" where in the winter months more and more people are unable to pay their utility bills. "Studies show that when residents are unable to pay for gas or electricity, they are one step closer to becoming homeless."  However, the problem with people being unable to pay their electricity bills is not just contained to the winter months.

     All over the world this past summer we saw record heat waves which led to increases in the use of electricity to power fans and air conditioning units.  When the time came to pay those electricity bills at the end of the month, low income households especially could not pay and had the electricity cut to their homes at the time when they needed it most.  For example, in Australia it got to a point where,"150 customers every working day - had their electricity disconnected because of unpaid power debts."  The SWIFT program could make improvements not only in the country, but across the world.

     While the SWIFT program is starting on a small scale, 800 homes in and around the Charlotte area, the results could have far reaching effects.  The program is creating a "smart home" by first educating the homeowner and then providing low cost technology to allow the homeowner to put what they have learned into practice.  This is what makes SWIFT different from other federally funded programs (funded by the U.S. Department of energy), the people involved realize that without the administrative portion of their project the technological part would be useless.

     SWIFT is receiving major help from companies, which allows their program to be financially feasible.  Lowe's is giving them great deals on supplies, Habitat for Humanity is supplying them with volunteer work hours, and "North Carolina Housing Finance Agency is providing forgivable loans to the homeowners."  My only fear is that this level of support cannot be found across the country which would make the SWIFT program economically impossible.  Hopefully, the country will see the benefits of this program and reach out to the low income households and make this world a better place.


Joey Cahalan

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  1. Joey, your blog touching a combination of financial efficiency and philanthropic initiatives was a joy to read and well-presented. The economy on a national and global level can benefit from programs like SWIFT.

    After the UNC Charlotte-based program installs SWIFT in the 800 lower income homes, I have a feeling the homeowners will see more disposable income to pay energy bills(that are lower because of SWIFT) and use in other manners. Lower income families need to generally focus on the basic necessities. The demand for basic necessities such as food and clothing will raise and add to the GDP. With all the trouble going on in the world today, the added consumerism will help get the national and global economy moving again.

    Despite the positive outcomes, SWIFT possesses a few concerns to me. Seeing that the program required a grant, the success of the program is almost vital to future funding. Being so, what is the extent of the education given to the lower income home owners? Will the entire family be informed or just the adult figures? Is the energy monitor(used to see how energy is used) where the majority of the funding is going? Are the system’s accurate in terms of predicting weather forecasts, or could it mislead patrons? If successful what’s next for SWIFT?

    The need to aide lower income families from becoming homeless is the forefront of SWIFT. Could SWIFT be adopted by the government to become a policy or act passed by legislation to help all lower income families nationwide? The questions that are brought about by the SWIFT blog come from an unprecedented situation. Most times high income families focus on home energy efficiency by creating smart homes, but SWIFT targets the opposite end of the spectrum.

    The video at the end of the blog talks about the need for the 800 lower income homes to spread the word and get more publicity. Is this to gain positive feedback to acquire the governments attention to possible receive more grants? The enthusiasm of the lower income homes needs to be directed at making sure SWIFT’s energy monitors are used properly to get sufficient results. The results will speak for themselves more loudly than the people being affected.

    I believe SWIFT’s program is a great idea and a refreshing, selfless business strategy that aims to help the people who need it most while trying to aide the economy. The blog was well written and swayed me to believe SWIFT has a chance to be a success on a much larger scale than 800 homes.

  2. I believe that SWIFT is a great program that will meet much success throughout its business. This program is beneficial for the people who own and run it in the ways that any business is beneficial to its creator and workers. It gives them a job to do every day, for a salary to support themselves. However, this job is more than a simple 9 to 5 task managing job. It is a form of community service tied together with a career. The people who work for SWIFT provide a service to their customers like no other. It gives low income families a chance to have the basic necessities that every home or shelter should have for a manageable cost.

    According to the video that Joey posted, the easiest way to help save money on energy bills would be to make every home a smart house; but when dealing with low-income households, this option is simply out of the question. The cost of a smart house is extremely expensive so as an alternative, SWIFT creates a smart home owner with the help of this “Energy Detective.” Many people do not understand or think about the proper way to use energy. With the help of this Energy Detective they can learn the efficient way to still get their heat or air conditioning, but still be able to afford their bills as well.

    I admire the businesses that contribute to SWIFT such as Lowes and Habitat for Humanity. Without their help, this program wouldn’t be able to survive. Their aid in this process shows that they are not just in business to make money any way possible. They get involved to help others. My hope for SWIFT is that it expands beyond one area. However, for this to happen, it would need many more contributors and investors. SWIFT’s services are needed all over the world. Their business has the potential to expand into something much larger that what it is now, but it needs more money, people, and resources before it can do so. I believe one step SWIFT can take to expand would be to get their name out in the business world more. They should advertise throughout the media and get people to join the cause.

    SWIFT’s main target for business is low-income families. They help these families manage their energy consumption and bills throughout the different seasons. If SWIFT wanted to expand its market, it could still help the low-income families but it could also help all those without heat or air conditioning. It could implement lost cost technology throughout homes all over the world and help them maintain this technology through its energy detective. According to the World Bank website, “Over 1.4 billion people are still without access to electricity worldwide, almost all of whom live in developing countries,” and “about 3 billion people use solid fuels-wood, charcoal, coal and dung-for cooking and heating. Every year fumes and smoke from open cooking fires kill approximately 1.6 million people mostly women and children, from emphysema and other respiratory diseases.” The ability to expand the market is there. SWIFT just has to develop its program to address broader problems in order to get its business to grow. It could potentially be the new company to give struggling families heat or air conditioning all over the world, while at the same time helping the air in the environment and going green.