INTRO: As cold weather sets in you might be thinking about heat bills. A federally funded program can help. It’s run by the state and by non-profit groups. It started under the 2009 stimulus and it ends this year. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus tells how it works.
Downtrodden Detroit is the green economy laboratory for guys like Jacob Corvidae. He lives in the Cass Corridor, collects water in rain barrels, bikes wherever he can and gardens wherever he can. He helped start a program called Better Buildings for Michigan. They want you to get a home energy audit now.
“The whole thing starts with a $100 visit which covers the full energy assessment with diagnostic equipment, a full energy report, also a number of items including a programmable thermostat, compact florescent light bulbs. The energy audit alone would usually cost $350.”
So you pay $100. Licensed contractors come to your house. They bring a machine with infrared sensors. It sees all the holes and cracks that leak heat. You get energy efficiency equipment and knowledge about your house you might not have.
“Everybody knows it’s a good idea to become more energy-efficient. Right. That’s a no-brainer. The trick sometimes is do you have the money up front to make it happen. You get low-interest financing or you get these great incentive rebates. The homeowner doesn’t have to do any paperwork. It’s all handled by the contractor. We have folks who are making major investments in their home. They’ll be able to do it much cheaper than they’ll be able to do it any other time. And now they’ll start saving money month after month on their utility bills.”
Better Buildings for Michigan has signed up about 2,000 customers around the state. They want another 1,500 before the program ends January 1. Energy is like food. You can’t live without it. So why not change the consumption patterns of whole neighborhoods. It could lead to a new economy.
That’s the spring on a ladder pulled down from an attic. Joel and Ana Howrani Heeres bought this old house in the Woodbridge section of Detroit last year. He works at Warm Training Center along with Jacob Corvidae.
“So this is our attic. We’ve been pulling up all the floorboards and all the old insulation that was chewed up by squirrels and other rodents. We’re gonna reinsulate this the right way.”
The highest quality these days is a spray foam that looks like cotton candy. It dries rock hard and stops all moisture and any hot air rising. A contractor will blow it in. Then blow in cellulose. That’s the grey mound of chewed up newspaper material that’s better and cheaper than pink fiberglass. Ana has done some of the grunt work too.
“It’s pretty nasty work. All that fiberglass insulation when you’re pulling it out there’s dust everywhere. We’ve been wearing masks and our long sleeves and overalls.”
Better Buildings can find you state certified contractors if you don’t want to work like Ms. Howrani Heeres. With her own work plus the contractor’s work, they’ve stopped 55% of the cold air leaking in..
“Spraying along the joists in the basement and in the attic are the kind of biggest bang for your buck in terms of energy-efficiency in your home.”
The Howrani-Heeres’s say don’t focus on big flashy investments. Do the little stuff first and reap big benefits.
“Often you can’t sell a house for more money because you have more insulation in the attic. But it really affects your bottom line and affordability. It’s not like putting a green roof on top of your house or new windows. Those are a lot more visible.”
And those are great, but they don’t need to be the first steps. It’s not sexy: this home energy efficiency stuff. It’s more like accounting. Jacob Corvidae of Better Buildings for Michigan explains why he preaches it.
“I hate seeing waste. I was brought up to be frugal. I hate seeing waste and I hate seeing people who want to do something but don’t have the ability to do it. So I really enjoy making it easy for people to do what they want to do. And in this case it’s better for the economy, the local community and the environment.”
To get a licensed contractor to come to your house anywhere in Southeast Michigan, click on http://mihomeenergy.org/