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Energy Outreach FAQs
MSHDA | MI-HOPE
MI-HOPE program: https://michigan.gov/mi-hope
CITY OF DETROIT | Renew Detroit
General Renew Detroit information: www.detroitmi.gov/RenewDetroit
MI-HOPE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q1. I understand that an energy audit will accompany my roofing project to evaluate the attic space but does the energy audit have to be completed on the entire home?
A1. Yes. At minimum, your project administrator will complete a Home Energy Saver audit formulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. This type of audit will provide you with information regarding maintenance items to best target your energy saving efforts moving forward.
Q2. Is the construction contract between the general contractor and my project administrator?
A2. No. You the homeowner are ultimately responsible for your home, therefore the contract will be between you and the general contractor. When it comes time to call on a warranty issue, it’s all up to you, the homeowner; your project administrator will be out of the picture by then.
Q3. If my new windows must be Energy Star rated, how will I know the right windows were installed for my Michigan climate zone?
A3. Energy Star-rated windows are required to leave the factory with a removable window sticker showing the climate zone and various ratings. Ask your contractor to provide you with these stickers before or during the installation. Michigan climate zone is in blue on the map. You can find the map on www.energystar/climatemap.
Q4. My home was built around 1925. I am worried my home may have asbestos containing materials or lead paint. Will the project administrator help identify it and if necessary, remove it?
A4. Project administrators are well trained to identify unhealthy types of asbestos and lead paint materials. All unhealthy airborne releasing asbestos and hazardous lead paint materials affecting construction activities will be removed, and if necessary, replaced with approved materials.
Q5. If I get new appliances, can I pick them out and make sure they match or, is it up to my contractor or project administrator to pick them out?
A5. Yes. Unless you are only replacing one appliance, all your appliance products should match. Your project administrator will give you an appliance package budget and you can pick them out to match; however, you must stay within your budget.
Q6. I need a new roof, doors and windows, furnace, water heater, appliances, and more insulation. Can I get everything completed through the MI-HOPE program? If not, how do I choose replacement items when I need all of them?
A6. No. MI-HOPE funding can-not replace everything your home needs as described in your question. Your energy auditor will scientifically address items that will give you the highest pay back for maximum energy savings. You and your project administrator will utilize the energy audit as a guideline to target items the program can afford to assist you with.
Q7. My home is drafty and uncomfortable. Will my project administrator help me with home comfort?
A7. Yes. The energy audit will help your project administrator pin-point comfort deficiencies and seal drafty areas as best possible utilizing advanced techniques in air sealing and weather strip sealing. The energy audit will also give your family energy saving tips on how you use your living spaces.
Q8. My floors are freezing cold, can we insulate and heat the basement, so the floors stay warmer?
A8. Yes. Your project administrator will start their visit with a few comfort questions. Make sure you tell them that your floors are freezing cold. Chances are your basement walls, rim and/or floor joist beneath your feet have insufficient or no insulation. Basements are one of the largest heat loss areas in your home and addressing your basement insulation will help. Once insulated, you may be able to add a heat duct or two to alleviate cold floors upstairs.
Q9. My air conditioning is old and doesn’t cool my home very well. Can I get it fixed or replaced?
A9. Yes. If you have a whole house air conditioner (one that is piped directly into your duct system), whole house air conditioning is eligible. If your current unit cannot be successfully repaired, a new unit can be installed. Portable air conditioners are not allowed.
Q10. A friend of mine installed a demand water heater and they said it works great, delivers all the hot water they need and saves them money. If my water heater does not work anymore, can I get a demand water heater?
A10. Maybe, depending on your daily water usage. It is recommended if your family uses 41 gallons of water or less a day, demand units are highly recommended; however, if you use more than 41 gallons a day, they really don’t save enough money for the extra cost of installation.
ENERGY AUDIT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q1: Is an energy audit required in order to get help from the MI HOPE program?
A1: Yes, in one form or another. Some energy audits are more comprehensive than others and involve more inspections, testing and measurements. But all homes will have some form of measurement of energy use before any upgrades can be done.
Q2: How much does an energy audit cost and why do I need one?
A2: For participants in the MI HOPE program there is NO CHARGE for the energy audit. In order to improve the energy efficiency (more comfort for less energy use) of your home we need to understand where your home is wasting energy. The energy audit is best understood as a diagnosis of energy use and waste in your home. In order to fix it, the first step is understanding it. The answer is also in the name of the program… Michigan Housing Opportunities Promoting Energy efficiency.
Q3: What kind of tests and inspections are done in a typical energy audit?
A3: The most common test is the BLOWER DOOR test that is used to measure and locate air leakage in the home. All new homes built in Michigan now require a blower door test to verify that the home is built to be very tight. Another common test is an infrared camera scan to locate areas of missing or inadequate insulation in the walls. Inspections involve assessing the amount and quality of insulation in all areas of the home, windows and door efficiency and weather seals and the proper function and efficiency of your furnace and water heater.
Q4: How long does an energy audit take and do I have to be home?
A4: A typical energy audit lasts from 1.5 to 2.5 hours and someone (ideally the homeowner) must be present in the home at all times. An energy audit is a learning experience for most people and helps them to understand their home better and what improvements will be the most important for saving energy and improving comfort.
Q5: Are health and safety concerns addressed during an energy audit?
A5: Most definitely YES! Heath and safety risks in a home include carbon monoxide ("CO", a deadly gas that is odorless), missing or faulty smoke detectors, combustible gas leaks near the furnace or water heater, lead dust or paint, asbestos which is sometimes found in insulation, mold and mold related problems like wood rot and also radon (another dangerous gas that can cause cancer). A comprehensive audit will help to identify these risks and provide recommendations to make your home safer and healthier.
Q6: Do I need to provide the energy auditor the last 12 or 24 months of my utility bills?
A6: Yes, these are needed for understanding both how, and how much, energy is used in your home.
Q7: I understand that sealing up air leaks in the attic and around the home in order to have a less drafty home is required for all new built homes in Michigan - and also the MI-HOPE program before adding attic insulation. Why?
A7: In order for insulation to do its job properly it must not have hot air in the summer, or cold air in the winter blowing through it. Insulation without air sealing is like wearing a warm coat on a cold winter day with the coat unzipped! Another way to think of insulation is like a wool sweater - and air sealing like a wind breaker. They work best to keep you warmer on a windy winter day.
Q8: I have heard that a house needs to “breathe”, now I hear a house needs to be “tight”. Which one is right?
A8: For a more comfortable, healthy, safe and affordable home the house needs to be tight. “Seal it tight and ventilate right” is the motto for newer, high performance homes and homes built to the current Michigan Energy Code (2015). A tighter home has less dust and bugs of all types. It is also noticeably quieter inside due to less noise from outside.
Q9: Will a tighter home make my house more stuffy and trap odors and moisture?
A9: An energy audit will lead to improved indoor air quality, which is essential to a healthy and energy efficient home. Proper ventilation (the right amount and in the right places) is important to a home that is more energy efficient. Using kitchen exhaust and bathroom fans when cooking, showering, etc., is more important so that excess moisture and odors can be removed from the home. Poor indoor air quality contributes to many health problems such allergies and asthma and increased respiratory infections.
Q10: What if I have moisture issues in my home, can I still get energy saving upgrades through MI-HOPE?
A10: It is important to first fix moisture problems in the home before making energy improvements. If your roof leaks then that needs to be fixed first. If water comes into the basement following a rain you may need to fix the gutters or improve the grade around the foundation so it slopes away from the home. Moisture can ruin perfectly good insulation so those things need to be fixed first.
Q11: My basement walls are not insulated, and the main floor joist perimeter above the foundation wall is not insulated either, or just stuffed with fiberglass - how much does this matter?
A11: It matters a lot and should be fixed with the right kind of insulation. The reason is easy to understand but not commonly understood! We all have heard that heat rises but the fact is that heat flows from areas of high heat to areas of low heat. Hot AIR rises. But heat can (and does!) move in a downward direction, or sideways. Because these areas are not or are poorly insulated the heat from your house escapes in those locations. This is why you may never seen snow next to your house basement walls - it melts away due to a lack of insulation.
Q12: Are all types of insulation the same, or are some better than others?
A12: It all depends on where it is installed and if it is installed properly. Fiberglass is a common type of insulation that is used in Michigan but if it has air movement passing through it than it losses its insulating value significantly. Spray foam or rigid foam boards are examples of insulation that is a good air barrier AND a good thermal barrier (insulation) but is more expensive. Cellulose insulation is most often recommended for attics in our cold Michigan climate because it works better at preventing heat loss in cold winter months than does fiberglass. Cellulose is often used in retrofitting older homes because in can be packed into uninsulated wall cavities and also fill gaps and stop air leakage in existing loosely installed insulation.
Q13: I have a hot water furnace (boiler) with radiators, not a forced air furnace with air ducts. Will an energy audit still be helpful in my situation?
A13: Yes, it does not matter what type of heating equipment you have, the energy auditor will be able to assess its efficiency and safe operation and make recommendations to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Q14: What is the biggest source of energy use in my home?
A14: Heating your home in the winter time is the largest energy user in a typical home, and heating costs are expected to be much higher this year. In Michigan, 60% of a home's energy use is from heating. Air leakage accounts for up to 40% of the home's heating costs, according to the US Department of Energy.
Q15: The ductwork in my home is not sealed, does duct sealing help?
A15: Duct leakage from unsealed connections and holes in a typical house contributes to poor indoor air quality, distribution inefficiency and results in the loss of up to 20% of the air that moves through the duct system. Excessive leakage in return ducts in the basement and crawl spaces can introduce indoor pollutants into the rest of the home, such as dust, radon and mold spores.