Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
Battle Creek residents who are interested in learning how to save money on their electric bills and create more energy-efficient homes have until Aug. 13 to register for a free home energy analysis
offered through Consumers Energy.
In addition to benefiting homeowners and renters, the program will raise money for the Battle Creek branch of the NAACP
(National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
“Consumers is teaming up with nonprofits led by minorities and women to promote this program and make a fundraiser out of it,” says Kathy Antaya, who is leading the fundraising effort and is Third Vice President for the local NAACP. “They’re trying really hard to specifically target Black and Brown communities where people are least likely to let ‘the man’ come into their house.”
To sign up, people should click here
or visit HomeEnergyAnalysis.com
or call 833-685-1312 to schedule their appointment. If signing up online, enter NAACPBC in the promo code box. If calling to schedule an appointment, Antaya says, “Be sure to mention the code to the call center representative.”
The hope, she says, is that this may increase people’s confidence in the work that Consumers Energy is doing to help them save money and in their own ability to get these types of improvements done.
“It makes a lot of sense to me, especially for households that are less energy-efficient and more likely to benefit and these are mostly low-income folks or people who don’t trust in a white person coming to their door,” Antaya says.
Although the fundraising opportunity has been happening with organizations on the east side of the state for several years, this is the first time that an organization in Battle Creek has had the opportunity to partner with Consumers Energy, says Erin Donnelly, Senior Marketing & Outreach Manager for Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics, LLC. SEEL, LLC is a Certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and an authorized Consumers Energy Contractor based in Comstock Park.
The payout for partnering organizations is based on a tiered system. For every 50 completed energy analysis appointments, an organization will receive $500; for every 75 appointments, this amount is $1,000 and it continues from there to a maximum amount of $5,000 for 200 completed appointments.
Donnelly says, as of yesterday there were seven completed appointments listed for Battle Creek.
“We need a minimum of 50 visits to start making it a fundraiser,” Antaya says. “Our goal is to get 200 visits. We were struggling to get 20.”
Participating organizations were given a three-month window to get people signed up and appointments completed. The fundraiser began in Battle Creek on June 13 and Antaya says she hopes that more people will sign up before the deadline.
Antaya is among the seven individuals who have already had an energy analysis performed at their homes. During that analysis, she got 30 lightbulbs replaced and was given four LED nightlights, all at no cost to her. She says if her home, which is about 50-years-old, had electric water service she could have received free plastic wraps and insulation for the hot water pipes and duct tape sealant for the water heater.
“The man who did my energy analysis was every experienced and professional,” Antaya says. “He made me feel so comfortable. He even pointed out several things that had nothing to do with energy efficiency and asked questions like whether I’d had a Radon test done in my basement.”
The technicians who perform the in-person analyses bring with them items, including lightbulbs and insulation, and will replace and install anything that’s required during the visit. For those who do the virtual analyses, the supplies that may be necessary to make improvements will be mailed to their homes at no charge.
In addition to the items that Antaya had replaced, premium upgrades are available to those individuals who are 200 percent or below the federal poverty level which is $53,000 for a four-person household, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
or 80 percent of AMI (Annual Median Income) which was $49,055 in Calhoun County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
These premium upgrades include items such as new refrigerators, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners, Donnelly says.
“We do the initial assessment and if you’re eligible for the premium upgrades, we reach out and follow up to see if are you are interested and if so, you have to provide income eligibility documentation and if you qualify, at that point we order a new fridge and set up delivery and installation.”
Donnelly says the energy analysis program is funded through an average charge of 30 cents that is part of the monthly bill received by customers of Consumers Energy.
“The point of this program as a fundraiser is to help the community and the businesses and organizations in that community and helping the community on an individual basis to save money on their energy costs,” Donnelly says. “People get really hesitant when they hear the word ‘free’. But it’s something every customer is already paying into. It’s a small charge on their bill that goes right into funding this program.”
“The program is completely free to anyone in Michigan who is a Consumers Energy customer,” Donnelly says. “Consumers Energy is doing virtual and in-person appointments to provide energy efficiency tips and those home energy reports which show the customer their energy use and how they can save money. The intention is to reduce energy use. We have certain goals we want to hit as a company with energy use. If there’s any way we can help the customer, we want to do that.”