A Win-Win For Homeowners

TC Saves loan program comes

to a close; more than 20 percent of city homeowners have

participated in the energy

assessment program so far.

A residential energy savings program that has helped 550 Traverse City homeowners conserve energy and reduce heating bills while providing jobs for area contractors is partially coming to a close.

TC Saves, which is administered by the city of Traverse City, is phasing out its low-interest loan program but will continue with its $100 assessments for Traverse City homeowners.

The program is part of the statewide BetterBuildings for Michigan program, funded by a $30 million grant the state received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to ensure more energy-efficient homes and businesses.

So far, TC Saves has been an example of a successful public/private partnership, said Mike Powers, project manager for Seeking Ecology Education and Design Solutions (SEEDS), one of four local public partners involved in the program.

"TC Saves has been a great example of how well public-private partnerships can work," Powers said. "For this project there was [federal] funding that the state energy office competed for and won. It was one of the largest awards for energy efficiency of any state."

The city of Traverse City, Traverse City Light and Power, SEEDS and the Michigan Land Use Institute competed against other municipalities in the state and won funding for the multi-year energy saving program in 2010.

"Initially the program started in the Oak Park and North Traverse Heights neighborhoods, but was later expanded to the entire community," said MLUI Energy Program Director Brian Beauchamp, who added that it has resulted in savings for about 20 percent of the eligible single family homes in the city.

Certified contractors report they benefitted from the program, adding staff and hiring subcontractors.

"James Anderson Builders, Geofurnace, Michigan Energy options and Brown Lumber realized the benefits of focusing on energy performance as a way to provide home improvements in a streamlined way," Powers said. "They hired additional staff and worked with dozens of subcontractors to serve 550 homeowners."

Builder James Anderson added two people to do home assessments, three field technicians, an office coordinator and a part-time carpenter to help handle TC Saves projects. His company also worked with a number of heating and electrical contractors.

"TC Saves was a significant amount of the work that we did," he said. "Our company did $750,000 in the first sweep and another $350,000 to $400,000 in the second phase. The exciting thing is that it impacted one-fifth of the single-family homes in Traverse City."

The most common problem his crews handled was sealing air leaks in drafty homes. They also installed energy saving light bulbs, showerheads and digital thermostats.

"Another important part is that we were able to show homeowners exactly what can be done to conserve energy and improve comfort," he said. "In air sealing, for example, we showed how a two dollar tube of caulk used to plug holes can pay back $40 to $60 in energy savings in a year."

Although the local funding is coming to a close for the low-interest financing, homeowners will still be able to get home energy assessments, Beauchamp said. As TC Saves phases out locally, homeowners can apply for low-interest loans through Michigan Saves, the state program.

Michigan Saves offers energy savings to both homeowners and owners of commercial buildings. Commercial financing from $2,000 to $150,000 is available with rates starting at 5.99 percent and terms from two to five years and offers special incentives for restaurants, food retailers and wholesalers.

Between homeowners' own improvements and utility and federal incentives, there was more than $1 million in energy saving investments in the last two years with TC Saves, Powers said.

"The TC Saves … story will be told for years to come as we track the energy savings, which is an important part of the project," he said. "There is a lot more work to do and partnerships will continue to create opportunities to improve on how we deliver energy saving solutions."

To learn more, visit tcsaves.com or michigansaves.org.