DIY makes a dent, but Home Energy Squad takes winter prep to a new level

By the time that first leaf falls, Minneapolis homeowners are already rolling up sleeves and digging into seasonal projects. Time again to hose out downspouts, unpack storm windows and rack up garden hoses. While to-do lists offer plenty for homeowners to tackle solo, that doesn’t mean we always need to go it alone. Supplementing homeowner elbow grease with Home Energy Squad’s services can be a winning combo.

In our land of weather extremes and sprawling cold spells, it’s no surprise that many fall projects involve prepping to ensure winter will be both tolerable and affordable. This month, while you’re cleaning out the flower boxes, covering the AC and clearing gutters, consider the impact of saving energy among your tasks.

As utility costs, insulation and appliance efficiencies figure into household budgets today, they also stand to affect the prospects for selling tomorrow. The National Association of Home Builders recently reported that energy efficiency is emerging as a top concern for home buyers. Builders who were surveyed included four specific efficiency measures among their top 10 current needs to keep up with buyer demand.

Fortunately, there are several “do-it-yourself ” tactics to make a dent on cold weather energy waste:

» Apply plastic treatments on drafty windows.

» Use rope caulk to seal up larger gaps around your window frames.

» Close the damper on your wood burning fireplace when not in use.

» Install foam gasket seals behind electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls.

» And Minneapolis homeowners seeking a bigger impact
can also call in the pros, by scheduling a Home Energy Squad visit. Home Energy Squad is an energy conservation program provided by CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy in partnership with various cities.

In Minneapolis, visits are delivered by the local nonprofit Center for Energy and Environment. For a limited time, the City of Minneapolis is offering free visits for income-qualified residents, including renters. During each visit, a team of experts evaluates opportunities and installs free energy-saving materials such as door weather strip- ping, a water heater blanket, high-efficiency lightbulbs and water fixtures and a programmable thermostat. A visit may also include:

» A blower door test to measure for air leaks.

» An infrared camera inspection of insulation in attics and walls.

» A safety check on the heating system and water heater.

» A prioritized list of improvement options and financing information.

» Access to 2.99-percent financing for related improvements (or 0 percent for income-qualified in Minneapolis).

If the squad recommends insulation or air sealing, homeowners will get a tailored quote and can schedule the work with a qualified contractor. To qualify for a free visit and 0-percent financing on recommended upgrades, a home must have an income of less than $48,100 for one person, $54,950 for two people, $61,850 for three people or up to $90,650 for eight people. All other Minneapolis resi- dents are eligible for a $70 home visit.

Fall chores are all about prepping for what’s around the bend, which could include higher energy efficiency, deeper savings, greater comfort and better prospects for selling your home someday. Complementing your DIY prep with the expertise of pros like the Home Energy Squad can take savings to the next level — and with just one phone call to sign up, it may be your easiest “chore” to cross off this month’s list.

Call CEE’s Beth Greeninger at 612-335-5874 to schedule a Home Energy Squad visit.

Tim Hanrahan is communications manager at the Center for Energy and Environment, a Minneapolis nonprofit that delivers practical energy solutions for homes, businesses and communities.