LANSING — The Michigan Association of Realtors announced today the launch of a new partnership to promote awareness among Michigan homeowners about a state government-backed program providing low-cost home energy assessments that can help shave hundreds of dollars a year from utility bills.
The real estate professionals are partnering with the Michigan Energy Office and others to publicize BetterBuildings for Michigan, a state program that through Dec. 31 is offering $100 home energy assessments that identify ways for homeowners to reduce energy consumption.
BBFM is funded by a $30 million federal grant the state received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal stimulus.
As part of its effort to inform the public about BBFM, the Michigan Association of Realtors and its regional associations will distribute information about the benefits of a BBFM home energy assessment to homebuyers they assist and hold random drawings to give away free assessments to some lucky Michigan homeowners.
“Our goal is to inform homeowners that BetterBuildings for Michigan is the completely safe, trustworthy and affordable way to complete a home energy audit,” said Beth Foley, president of the Michigan Association of Realtors.
The partnership with BBFM is part of a new public awareness campaign to dispel concerns prompted by a recent national survey that found solicitations for home improvement work disguised as “free” energy audits are among the newest complaints that local and state consumer protection agencies dealt with during the past 12 months.
The fastest-growing complaints in the survey by advocacy groups the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators involved debt collection abuses, Do Not Call list violations, mortgage-related problems and home improvement scams. Home repair firms using high energy bills to dupe consumers were among the fastest-growing complaint categories.
Partners in BBFM include the United States Department of Energy, the State of Michigan Energy Office, the City of Detroit’s Economic Development Corp., the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office (SEMREO), Michigan Saves and DTE Energy.
“We are highly appreciative that the Michigan Association of Realtors recognizes the value of our services,” said Jacob Corvidae, SEMREO co-director. “Our experience shows the assessments more than pay for themselves because of the energy-saving materials that are installed.”
The cost of a BBFM home assessment is a discount from the typical price of $350 for such inspections. So far, homeowners who have received the assessments are saving $235 annually, with some reporting reductions of $800 a year in their utility bills.
The program starts with low-cost inspections of homes — also called energy audits — that pinpoint where homes are losing energy and measure the efficiency of a home’s heating and cooling systems. A certified building analyst uses a variety of techniques and equipment during the evaluation, including blower doors that evaluate the extent of structural leaks and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of air infiltration and inadequate insulation.
Certified building analysts who conduct the assessment issue a personalized report with their findings to the homeowner. They will also install energy-efficient light bulbs, shower heads, faucets and programmable thermostats — at no extra cost — and suggest additional cost-effective, energy-saving improvements, such as insulation and energy-efficient appliances.
Homeowners are under no obligation to act on the certified building analyst report. BetterBuildings for Michigan offers financial assistance to those who choose to install additional energy-saving measures, including rebates totaling up to $5,000.
Participating communities elsewhere in the state are Bath and Dewitt, Grand Rapids, Marquette and Traverse City. Contact information for the other area programs can be found below.
* BetterBuildings for Michigan in Bath and Dewitt: (517) 337-0422, ext. 1314, www.bathbbfm.org
* BetterBuildings for Michigan in Grand Rapids: (616) 451-3051, ext. 40.
* BetterBuildings for Michigan in Marquette: (906) 228-6095, www.superiorwatersheds.org/bbfm.php
* BetterBuildings for Michigan in Traverse City: (231) 620-1060, http://tcsaves.com/