Help for healthy and happy holidays

NC fund’s home improvements make life warmer, safer for Janet Lutz and her family

Janet Lutz has much to be grateful for this holiday season.

Her holidays will be cozy and filled with warmth because for the first time in 61 years she has central heating and air conditioning in her home. She was able to replace a wood stove with an electric heat pump, which has provided even more for her home and family – a healthier environment.

Lutz lives with her grandsons, who both have asthma, and the wood stove aggravated their conditions. “They are both doing better since the new heating system has been installed,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”


Along with a new heating and air conditioning system provided by Duke Energy’s Helping Home Fund, Lutz’s home in Hickory, N.C., received a new refrigerator, smoke detectors, insulation, electrical repairs and ductwork, along with some other home repairs. Lutz’s upgrades, totaling more than $14,000, were funded by the Helping Home Fund and Blue Ridge Community Action Association.

The Helping Home Fund began in 2015 through an agreement with the N.C. Public Staff and approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission to mitigate a rate increase in 2013. The $20 million fund provides income-qualified customers with up to $10,000 in energy efficiency upgrades at no cost. Money for the program comes from Duke Energy shareholders and not through customer rates.

The company contracted with the N.C. Community Action Association (NCCAA) to serve as the administrator of the program. NCCAA works with agencies and nonprofits across the state to identify eligible customers and distribute funds.

Butch Zadio speaking to Janet Lutz as, his crew from Green Horizons Innovators finished improvements her home in Hickory.

“We’ve worked hard to create incentive programs that help make the cost of energy efficiency upgrades more affordable, energy education programs that help our customers make informed choices about how they use energy, and programs for our customers who need these energy-saving measures but can’t afford them,” said Lorrie Maggio, Duke Energy’s manager of products and services.

The Helping Home Fund was designed, Maggio said, to provide services to income-eligible customers while working with existing programs from local agencies and nonprofits to best leverage their funding. That way, a customer receives a wider spectrum of services that include energy efficiency upgrades and education so that customers can make informed choices of how they use energy. 

Since the program began, more than 2,500 customers have been helped by the fund.

Another benefit surprising to Lutz is a lower monthly utility bill. Her bill has dropped from about $200 per month to around $120, which frees up money for other needs, like clothes for her grandsons.

“I am so pleased with how this turned out,” Lutz said. “No more sweltering in the summer, and for the holidays, my home will be warmer and better for my grandsons.”