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Impact Story: Energy Savings, Climate Justice

Impact Stories
Abel Vargas, President, Valley Home Insulation

Valley Home Insulation speaks Latino communities’ language

Across Massachusetts, homeowners and renters alike can get free home energy audits, free air sealing if needed, free or heavily discounted insulation, and large rebates on heating and cooling system upgrades through a program called Mass Save.

For the 1.3 million households in the state who struggle to pay their energy bills, the upgrades can be transformative. Yet many have no idea it exists or that they qualify, especially in low-income and immigrant communities.

Valley Home Insulation is changing that, focusing on Latinos in Lawrence and nearby cities. “There’s been such a large gap in people getting services,” says founder and president Abel Vargas. “We’ve been able to tap into a market that hadn’t been spoken to the way we’re able to speak to them.”

From outreach, to scheduling, energy assessments, insulation installers, plumbers and electricians, all the work is done by people who not only speak Spanish, but share customers’ culture and local ties. Through partnerships,referrals, and a loan and business coaching from BII, VHI has grown quickly to five trucks and over 30 employees.

“You build a team of passionate, capable people, regardless of whether they speak English, and that helps us penetrate the market,” Vargas says. “Part of it is empowering people that oftentimes aren’t told ‘You’re important, your skill set is critical,’ beyond being good on computers or writing a good email.”

By reducing energy demand, VHI is also reducing carbon emissions – and a team is now training to install heat pumps as well, a key step towards ending fossil fuel use. But when talking with customers, they don’t focus on the climate. “La cuenta – saving money is the thing,” Vargas says. And after they’ve sealed up a home, the winter heating bills can potentially drop by hundreds of dollars per month.

Photo provided by Valley Home Insulation