With Michigan families staying home to slow the spread of COVID-19 and a colder-than-average spring, households may find their heating bills higher than usual and the air quality inside their home decreasing. Michigan’s Weatherization Assistance Program at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has some tips to help.
The Weatherization Assistance Program works with low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities to improve both the energy efficiency and air quality of their home.
“Sometimes the money people save on utilities through the program means they can buy something they really need, such as medicine,” said Ray Judy, director of the state’s weatherization training center, which certifies contractors to do the specialized work.
“The Weatherization Assistance Program is one way that MDHHS provides access to important services that give Michigan residents the opportunity to improve their well-being and health,” said Lewis Roubal, MDHHS chief deputy director for opportunity. “We know many people are struggling to pay the bills during these unprecedented times as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We want to help them save energy and save money.”
With the weatherization program, which sends efficiency experts into homes, temporarily on hold due to COVID-19, Judy offers a few steps you can take – whether you live in a house, manufactured home or apartment – to help improve indoor air quality and lower energy bills.
Stop heat loss
If you have access to the attic through an opening in the ceiling – sometimes it’s a small passageway in a closet or hallway – make sure it is closed tightly so the warm air stays in living areas and doesn’t float up into the attic.
Check the filter in the furnace or air conditioner every 30 to 45 days, and change it if it is dirty. A dirty filter makes the heating system work harder because it can’t move the air as easily.
Lowering the thermostat even a degree will save money. Start with the usual temperature settings, then drop it one degree at a time to determine what your comfort level is. If you use an air conditioner, do the same in reverse.
The best temperature for hot tap water is 120 degrees. If it’s hotter than that, you’re likely adding cold tap water to cool it for uses such as bathing and handwashing. Save money by turning down the temperature on the water heater. If the temperature dial does not have “degree” markings, fill a glass with hot water from the tap and check the temperature with a food thermometer. If it’s over 120 degrees, turn the dial down slightly, give the water heater time to adjust and then check the temperature again.
Air it out
If there are working exhaust fans in the bathroom or kitchen, use them to remove excess moisture produced during bathing and cooking. That moisture can build up and cause mold.
These steps are useful for all residents to potentially improve energy efficiency and air quality in their homes.
Check for leaks, replace filters, dial down (or up) temperatures, and turn on the fan.
Additionally, the Weatherization Assistance Program is free to residents who qualify and provides extensive energy efficiency and air quality improvements. If you are interested in applying for the program, or becoming a contractor with the program, find a local Weatherization Provider by visiting www.michigan.gov/weatherization.