Going Green Without Spending Too Much Green

A Guide to a Budget-Friendly, Energy Efficient Home

By Ben Hartwig March 5th, 2019



So you’ve decided it is time to be a part of the energy efficient movement. But it’s tough, as soon as you make the commitment, something “more important” comes up. You've hired the insulation guy, window guy... or whatever guy, and then, just days later, that unexpected bill pops up.


So what is an aspiring and environmentally responsible homeowner to do? The Hartwig Team is here to help! We’ve created this guide to help the community and help our clients make smart decisions.


Little things do make a difference

Swapping out some incandescent light bulbs for LED is easy and bulbs are becoming more affordable. It seems miniscule, but count the bulbs in your bathrooms alone and you might be surprised. Many bathrooms have 4, or even 8 decorative bulbs over a vaity. These KWHs (kilowatt-hours) add up fast. But those who crave true energy efficiency, need more than just bulbs.


So without further delay… here is our guide to going green wisely


Get started for free, and get cash back!

1. It starts with a free, yes FREE Energy Audit Consultation

You've created a pretty good idea in your head about where you expect you are wasting energy in your home… but what if you're wrong. What if it something you can't see at all that is blowing your money out the window- no pun intended.


We can solve that easy peasy, start with a free energy audit provided to you gratis by DTE Energy or Consumers Energy. Conflict of interest you might say, but nope, it’s legit. I personally have had it done at my home, and it was pretty darn cool. Cooler than a polar bear’s toenail in fact, you’ll get a free energy report just similar to one from a home inspector when purchasing a house with your realtor.


So you like free help like this but don't know how to get yours scheduled. No problemo! Just click right here to learn about this free DTE home energy consultation. If preferred, you can get a similar audit through Consumers Energy by clicking right here. (we suspect it’s the same program but we coordinated through DTE)

2. What you get in the Energy Audit Report?


This report will show you what is costing you money, and where you should focus your energy efficient budget. Here is just one example of what in the report. If you are losing inside air through walls, window casings, even plug outlets. You WILL discover it with this report.



You'll also get recommendations on common things like adding water-saving nozzles in your sinks, and other energy tips.


One of the coolest things from our audit was the air tight test. All windows and doors except one were closed except for one. The only remaining opening will have a fan that draws air from inside the home to the outside. The back pressure on the fan is measured with a meter of some kind to test overall “porosity” of the home.


In our case, we added attic insulation, foam insulation in the basement rafters, and replaced all windows in the home (they were in disrepair since we bought the home anyway.) by the time we were done there were over $1,200 in rebates we got back.


After all those replacements were complete, the energy audit contractor came back to check the air leak test again… and the home was so much tighter with less porosity that we qualified for an extra rebate, bonus!


3. Choosing a DTE Partner to Conduct the Energy Audit.

Have your Consumers Gas and DTE Electric account numbers ready when you go to start the process, the first thing needed is a basic questionnaire, if you don't have it, you can request phone call for assistance. You will need to answer simple questions about your home. Once you do, you will have options for contractors to select from, you’ll basically be getting a voucher for the free audit. Put this somewhere you won't lose it, this is how the contractor gets paid (by DTE- NOT you.)


So now it is up to you to do your due diligence and check public info about the contractors that are participating. We decided to use The Insulation Man out of Chesterfield, MI. We are not affiliated with them in any way, however, they did a great job and I can vouch for what was a good experience.


Not all online reviews are created equal, go with your gut


We suggest Google Maps first to read contractor reviews, and Yelp next. Yelp has had some headlines that personally make me question the validity of the reviews in some cases, so I prefer google maps, but go with your gut while researching the options. Don't forget to check Facebook page reviews, and just do a general Google search. If possible, call the company and ask for references.


Keep in mind, if you choose the right contractor for the free audit, it is likely you might hire them should you need any relative services that they offer. (It’s usually an insulation company who does the audit.)


4. But isn’t this just signing up for a sales pitch?

Not Necessarily, if you choose the right company to work with, it should be a friendly, no-obligation service, since DTE will compensate them for the audit of course. So be prepared, and take time to make decisions. There should be no pressure to commit at the time of the consultation. If there is high pressure, you’ve chosen the wrong contractor and should inform DTE Energy or Consumers, whoever you choose when requesting the consultation.


5. It Gets Even Better! Rebates Galore!

That’s right, once the energy companies pay for you to get your free audit, they’ll pitch in on some of the repairs, even more reason for you to shrink your carbon footprint!


These rebates add up fast, check out the rebates offered below-


image courtesy of https://www.newlook.dteenergy.com/wps/wcm/connect/dte-web/home/save-energy/residential/rebates/insulation+and+windows


Not bad but, It gets even better, check out what Consumers Energy adds to the pot…

image courtesy of: https://www.consumersenergy.com/residential/save-money-and-energy/rebates/windows-and-insulation


Can you double dip on both of these rebates from both DTE and Consumers? You bet your sweet bippy! AND you can basically pick any contractor you like, just check the program requirements and don’t select a contractor who is not licensed and insured.


These programs have been around for years, but are re-evaluated and adjusted every year.


6. So who should consider investing in these types of upgrades?

Anybody can, and should, at least consider energy efficient upgrades. There might be little-to-no glitz and glamor in home improvements, but these contribute to the “good bones” of any home and are very important. It is also important to consider the ROI (Return on Investment) with any home improvement.


Forever Homes

If your utility bills are astronomical, it can certainly make these types of home improvements seem valuable and VERY tempting. The $$ Rebates only sweeten the deal. If it is your “forever home” then YES, don’t delay, the payback on expensive improvements like windows, furnace etc. can never start too soon, and it will pay off in the long run.


VS Improving the home to be sold

But what about those who aren’t in a forever home… be very careful what you invest in. Especially with a market shift coming in 2019 to a balanced real estate market. If you have been steady with cosmetic updates in your home since owning it, then upgrading your energy efficiency could ice the cake for max FMV (Fair Market Value.)


If you plan to list your home for sale, it might be more wise to invest in cosmetics that would be more appealing to a buyer’s first impression. In general a dated kitchen and/or bathroom could command higher ROI than new windows could return when determining a list price. Just be prepared to renegotiate during the inspection contingency if the windows are shot when the house is sold.


7. A Realtor® Perspective


Eco Friendly isn’t for everyone. Home Value is always subjective… but unless your windows are leaking like a sieve, or you have ZERO insulation in your attic, you might consider replacing that olive green dishwasher and parkay floor  a higher priority before looking at subtle, long-term investments like windows and insulation.


Energy efficiency expectations are growing… while the “Boomer’s” are downsized or considering downsizing. Millenials are finally climbing out of the tremendous student loans they face in 2019, and they expect energy efficiency, green living, and smart features in homes. So we could see a paradigm shift where “good bones”, trump the glitz and glamor that catches the eye. Sustainable homes could soon rank above the solid surface countertops potentially.


For a home value analysis, contact a real estate professional to determine a specific action plan if you are considering selling your home.