After making for a successful pilot program for residential areas, Ferndale will be one of the seven cities in Metro Detroit to enter into the second phase of BetterBuildings for Michigan.
Monday, City Council agreed to participate in the program that is run by the Southeast Regional Energy Office of Michigan and offers incentives to reduce energy use in buildings and homes.
“Ferndale was the pilot community for BetterBuildings for Michigan and the first in the U.S.,” council member Melanie Piana explained at the meeting. “Now everybody in Ferndale will be eligible to participate in this program and take advantage of incentives to put more into home improvements and (have) a variety of financing options to lower the cost of upgrading your home (in order) to lower the costs of energy.”
In the pilot program last year, BetterBuildings for Michigan was experimenting with the program to make homes more energy efficient after previously working with city buildings. The pilot included only a select neighborhood in Ferndale and proved to be effective. Now, with the program being open to all residents, the Regional Energy Office is expecting the same success.
“We looked for cities with older, but good quality housing, high rates of home ownership and residents who were committed to staying in that neighborhood,” Gillian Ream of the Regional Energy Office explained about the competitive process she said led them to pilot in Ferndale. “We want to help and Ferndale has a long-term commitment to sustainability.”
Program can use more participants
City Manager April McGrath said is hoping for more participation from Ferndale residents this time around. She told the council that out of 400 residents who were eligible to try the pilot program, just 40 signed up.
Some of the feedback from the program was that residents thought it was a sales pitch, she said.
“It’s a great opportunity for our residents. There’s not a catch. It truly is a grant-funded program and we’re very excited we get to extend this to all of our residents.”
How the program works
The first 4,000 houses to sign up from the seven communities will be accepted; the cost to participate is $100.
The other cities taking part are Detroit, Lathrup Village, Roseville, Southgate, Sterling Heights and Ypsilanti, and sign up is open now, even though the program doesn’t officially roll out until April 12.
For those who join the program, the first step will be an appointment for an energy audit around the end of April. Ream said to think of the session as a check-up for your home. “It’s a great opportunity to learn about your house.”
Houses will be tested with high-tech equipment that can test air flow, appliances and detect leaks.
“People are often really surprised to find out that areas like brick fireplaces or recessed lighting – places people never think about – are leaking more than the windows. There are less expensive ways to save money (on energy).”
Homeowners will then receive a customized report, itemizing energy issues and showing them how much it would cost, as well as what rebates are available.
Ream says one of the best benefits of the program is that it matches rebates – say for homeowners insulating basements or attics – and also offers low-interest loans for buying things like solar panels and energy-efficient appliances.
So is there really a sales gimmick like McGrath said residents are leery of?
Ream says no, because the $100 cost to sign up will still result in the overall goal: “The idea is for people to save more money on energy bills than they are spending,” she explained.
The cost to participate did double from the $50 pilot cost, but Ream says that’s because many more options and features have been added, particularly the better financing options.
Piana was one of the council members to praise the program at Monday’s meeting. She said she and her husband were not eligible in 2011, but look forward to being able to participate this year. Mayor David Coulter also commented that it was a great program, for both city building and local residences.
For more information on the program or to sign up, call the Regional Energy Office at 313-566-4801.