Larry Kaufman, spokesperson for DTE Energy, addressed home and business owners on the need to conserve energy and outlined steps to lower energy costs.

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Despite snowy conditions and subfreezing temperatures in early January, well over 100 people turned out for an energy seminar in suburban Detroit, sponsored by Michigan utility giant DTE Energy. The seminar included tips, suggestions, and how-to information on reducing energy costs.

DTE Energy spokesperson Larry Kaufman served as host and offered energy-saving ideas to an audience made up mostly of home and business owners. He joked by starting out his presentation, “Energy prices are going up so you all have something to look forward to.”

Kaufman noted that energy conservation is more important than ever and cited Michigan as one state that has lagged behind every other state when it comes to energy codes. “Until 2008 we were the worst in the country,” he said. “Our energy codes were 60 percent less than national standards.

“In fact, Habitat for Humanity homes are more efficient than the million dollar homes in our state because they are built to national codes.”

Kaufman said that DTE Energy has been studying ways to lower energy costs and used a standard ranch-style, 1,800-square-foot home as an example. The studies showed that it had been possible to reduce energy bills from $2,700 to $650 a year by taking various conservation steps. “These are not just $5 savings,” he said.

Some of these steps include using blown-in insulation in attics to seal up nooks and crannies and prevent ice dams from forming on roofs, sealing off air leaks which account for 39 percent of heat loss in homes (there is only a 20 percent heat loss through windows, Kaufman added), buying Energy Star-rated appliances, turning off lights when not in use, using compact fluorescent light bulbs which consume up to 75 percent less energy than conventional light bulbs, insulating ductwork in unheated crawl spaces, using reusable rope caulk to seal windows, to name a few steps.

He kept referring to the air leakage problem in Michigan homes, stating that the average Michigan home leaks 85 percent each hour. “The federal government says that 35 percent is ideal,” Kaufman added.

Mike Miller of Family Heating, Cooling & Electrical talked about energy efficiency by discussing various types of furnaces and ways to reduce duct leakage.

He asked the audience if they could pick out the largest energy users in the home and most chose appliances. Kaufman corrected them, “HVAC and water heaters account for 75 percent of your energy bill.”

Another speaker, Mike Miller of local HVAC contractor Family Heating, Cooling & Electrical, spoke briefly about the various types of furnaces available, including two-speed and variable. “Variable-speed motors are good for evening out the temperatures in each room by keeping a constant flow of air circulating through the ductwork,” he said. Speaking of ductwork, Miller noted that ductwork in Michigan homes “leak like crazy. You need to seal ductwork with mastic or sealing tape.”

Steve Verbrugge of Hot Watts Solar LLC touched briefly on solar systems but preferred to talk about the importance of home energy audits. “By all means, get an energy audit and find out how to reduce energy consumption,” he told the audience. “I really recommend spending money on saving energy first.”

Publication Date:02/23/2009