This webpage will provide you quick step-by-step guidance on how to improve your energy efficiency. For loads more information on energy action you can take, go to www.a2energy.org
1) Perform an Energy Audit
2) Assess your Solar Potential
3) Select Improvements
4) Perform Improvements
5) Cash-in on Improvements!
Step 1: Perform an Energy Audit
Local Energy Auditors
An energy audit is an important step in helping you identify the best ways to increase your energy efficiency. A home energy audit can cost as little as $100 or up to $400, depending on the level of assessment. MichCon/DTE also offer rebates to help their customers cover the cost of an audit. Click here for details about the MichCon/DTE rebate.
A number of area businesses and nonprofits offer energy audits for residents, builders, and real estate professionals. A home energy audit can help existing owners identify ways to lower utility bills and save money. A home energy audit considers building characteristics such as insulation, air sealing, heating/cooling equipment, lighting, appliances, and hot water use, among other things. Real estate brokers can offer customers expanded financing packages through energy efficient mortgages. New home builders and realtors can actively market Energy Star homes as a certified superior product. It is important to note that audit prices are lowering and many providers are offering deals to remain competitive and appeal to more homes and businesses. Click here for a list of regional energy auditors compiled by the Energy Office.
Free Online Resources
Assess your current energy usage with DTE's MyEnergy Analyzer
. This online tool will help you determine how much energy your home and appliances use and will offer tips to increase your efficiency.
- Calculate your environmental footprint. What is an environmental footprint? It's a quantitative measurement of the amount of land and water it takes to provide all the resources you use in your day-to-day life. This can help you find ways to take action outside the home.
Step 2: Assess your Solar Potential
Click here and enter your address if you are within the city limits to assess your home's solar potential using the City of Ann Arbor's website. If you are not in the City of Ann Arbor, check with your local energy office or click here to find a local solar contractor. Click here to see a general "How to" guide for going solar in Ann Arbor.
Step 3: Select Improvements
Once you have performed an energy audit and assessed your home's solar potential, you will now have the necessary information to select which improvements to make to your home. These improvements may range from replacing old, energy inefficient appliances to increasing the R-value of the insulation of the building. You may choose to make the selections of improvements yourself or you may sit down with the energy auditor to discuss which improvements make the most sense for your building.
Costs and Financial Incentives
The North Carolina Solar Center is a non-profit that maintains a database of state and federal incentives for renewables and efficiency. This is an excellent resource for locating state incentives to help cover the costs of your selected improvements. Click here for Michigan state incentives. Click here for federal incentives. For the latest information search in the database at www.dsireusa.org.
Example Incentives Include:
- Federal incentive: up to $500 for installation of energy efficient water heaters, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, air conditioners, building insulation, windows, doors, roofs, and other technologies
- Federal incentive: depending on the technology, up to $4,000 for the installation of renewable energy technologies such as solar water heat, photovoltaics, wind, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, and other solar electric technologies.
- Michigan State incentive: $75 per improvement for single filers and $150 per improvement for joint filers for installation of efficient clothes washers/dryers, dishwasher, refrigerators/freezers, water heaters, furnaces, building insulation, and windows.
See Step 5 below for more incentives to reduce costs.
Step 4: Perform Improvements
Select a contractor and get an estimate for the cost of your selected improvements. Depending on the type of improvements you've selected, it may be helpful to get a price estimate from more than one contractor. For a contractor list, check or local yellow pages or browse the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association's business directory. Then select the appropriate contractor and begin the construction process.
Step 5: Cash-in on Improvements!
Go to Energy Star Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency to learn more about available incentives or rebates you may qualify for. Also be sure to check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).
Other Sources for State-wide Programs and Information
Federal and International
Want to Do Even More?
Here are other simple steps you can take to reduce your energy usage:
- Not using it? Turn it off! The most effective way to reduce your use of electricity is to turn off lights when you leave the room and your computer and TV once you're finished watching. Also check out these tips on ways to use less electricity in your home
- Buy compact fluorescent bulbs. These days you can buy them just about anywhere
- Get ENERGY STAR appliances when it comes time to buy new ones
- Sign up for DTE's GreenCurrents renewable electricity program
- Install photovoltaic panels or put up a small wind turbine: GLREA maintains a list of Michigan-based contractors
- Every degree on your thermostat can save you 1-3% off your bill
- Install a programmable thermostat
- Turn your water heater down to 120°F
- Take shorter or cooler showers, and install low-flow showerheads (after all, less hot water means less heat).
- Get a home energy audit to identify potential energy savings
- Make your next home an ENERGY STAR home
- Look into solar water heating (again, see GLREA's list of contractors)
- Incorporate passive solar design into your new home!
- Try the bus: see AATA's website
- Dust off your bike
- Move closer to work, if possible
- Support other transportation alternatives, like commuter rail
- Visit the getDowntown Program for more information on alternative commuting options, including go!passes for downtown businesses
- Try using biodiesel if you've got a diesel engine
- E85 is on the way, but you'll need a flex-fuel vehicle to use it
- Keep your tires preoperly inflated
- Drive smoothly and avoid fast starts and stops
- Buying a new car? Consider hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and (bio)diesels!
Why Use Less Energy? (A Brief Reminder...)
Here in the United States, we use a lot of energy from a wide range of sources, both domestic and foreign. These fuel sources include natural gas, petroleum, nuclear power, hydroelectric power, coal, and renewables such as wind and solar. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2007 the United States consumed over 100 quadrillion BTU of energy. It's difficult to understand what such a large number represents. To provide some context, the generation of a comparable amount of energy would require approximately 2.5 billion tons of oil or over 800 billion gallons of gasoline! Of this about 21% is used in the residential sector alone. This is the equivalent of nearly 550 million tons of oil just to run our homes. How can we reduce this number? Above are some simple steps to help you identify what you can do to improve your energy efficiency and save money in the process too!
*The photo of stacked money which appears here is courtesty of AMagill.