Energy Efficient Homes Save Money

Caley McNamara

Cash incentives are being offered to homes and businesses seeking to defray the cost of energy efficient upgrades.

Companies like Consumers Energy offer cash incentives for upgrades to lighting and heating. In addition, nonprofit organizations like Michigan Energy Options offer free or discount prices on furnace replacements and energy audits.

Michigan Energy Options also sponsors an energy efficient and energy educational home in East Lansing, Mich., which is devoted to providing solutions to energy efficiency for homes and businesses.

Change a light, Change Michigan is a state-wide program funded by Michigan Energy Options. This program received a $750,000 grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to offer a discounted price on CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs) to Michigan residents, according to Becky Jo Farrington, the environmental education manager at Michigan Energy Options.

“The goal was to help buy down the cost of 590,000 low watt bulbs,” Farrington said.

Replacing five existing bulbs with CFLs, a home could save over $200 over the bulb’s life, said Jeff Holyfield, media contact at Consumers Energy.

Residents in the Kalamazoo area are also trying to keep their energy bills down with the upcoming holiday season approaching.

“My husband and I replaced our old Christmas tree lights this year and bought new LED lights,” said Lauren Worgess, a Kalamazoo resident.

According to Worgess they have also replaced many of their home’s lights to help keep their home more efficient.

The Board of Water and Light (BWL) this past year has also given CFLs to their consumers free of charge, according to Aileen Gow, an energy programs specialist at BWL.

“Changing to CFLs is the number one thing people can do to make their homes and businesses energy efficient,” Gow said.

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury that can be dangerous to the environment if just thrown away and not properly recycled. The Michigan Energy Options recently received funding for a recycling program to safely dispose of the used bulbs.

“Since we made a point of putting the bulbs into homes, we want to help recycle them as well,” Farrington said.

Michigan Energy Options is also trying to help those that the state may not see as eligible for assistance.

“We are looking to replace around 179 furnaces in low-income homes that are just above the poverty level in Michigan,” Farrington said when discussing future plans for Michigan Energy Options.

The Michigan Energy Options also provides training for individual interested in careers in technical energy auditing for homes and businesses

Energy auditors perform a variety of tests on home and businesses to help ensure that they are as efficient as they can be.

“It’s a very specific program and as we expand and grow we hopefully will get more grants to hire more employees,” Farrington said.

Brian Byus, owner of Northwoods Energy, has been performing energy audits for Michigan residents for many years.

“We are reaching our time of year that when energy demands go up and so does our business,” Byus said.

Every residential home that Northwoods Energy visits is given a thermal image scan to see where heat is coming and leaving from the home.

“An energy audit is similar to an MRI,” said Byus “You wouldn’t go into surgery blind; you want to know what the actual problem is first.”

Northwoods Energy also works with Habitat for Humanity helping to ensure that the new homes built in Michigan are energy efficient. “An energy efficient home is held to a standard or rating scale that Northwoods Energy compares to a national rating system,” Byus said.

Energy companies such as Consumers Energy know that the upfront costs of more expensive products such as new furnaces or water heaters can be very costly for some of their customers, so according to Holyfield, discount incentives are offered to help out with those costs.

“However, there are little things such as sealing cracks in windows and ceilings that are very low cost to the consumer,” said Byus.

To create a more energy efficient home can be most beneficial to consumers in the long run. Even the simplest and low cost changes help keep home and business owners’ energy costs down, Farrington said.