Living Sustainably: Energy efficiency upgrades create comfort, savings and healthier homes

By Ken Freestone, City of Holland
Although we had a late start to summer, is your home already too hot – especially that second or third floor? Now think back just several months ago. Remember how cold some of your rooms were during the Polar Vortex?
A Home Energy Upgrade could solve many of those issues, whether cold or hot.
The Home Energy Retrofit program through the City of Holland has several ways to assist homeowners, including landlords (for up to four-plexes), to make homes more comfortable all year long, help you save on energy costs, and also make homes healthier and safer. In addition, homes that have been retrofitted and upgraded and then certified usually see a 5 percent increase in value at time of sale compared to non-certified homes.

Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit program helps city residents save 10 percent on home energy improvements.

The Home Energy Retrofit program is sponsored through the City of Holland, the Holland Board of Public Works, and the Holland Energy Fund. It is available to all homeowners in the City of Holland.
The Home Energy Retrofit program provides a 10 percent grant towards home energy upgrades plus low-interest, on-bill financing through the Holland BPW or through Michigan Saves, a state-wide nonprofit dedicated to low-interest energy efficiency loans.

A blower door like this is part of the equipment used in a complete home energy audit to help measure the energy efficiency of a home.

For homeowners living outside the city limits, there are some other incentives through the Holland BPW and Semco Energy.
So how do you get started? The first step is to get a complete energy audit on your home by a certified building performance professional in our program. These audits are conducted using scientific tools to measure data and then compile a detailed report on the condition of your home. If you have had some kind of “walk-through,” clipboard audit in the past you have gotten only a small snapshot of the true condition of your home.
A complete home performance audit provides a clear picture of the energy related conditions of your home and also provides a road-map for the highest and lowest priorities for upgrade. Audits are free for city residents.
The audit will also help you understand the highest and best return on your upgrade investment, including how to understand some of the advertising out there.

Appropriate insulation installed through Holland’s Home Energy Retrofit program can make upstairs spaces cooler in the summer and warmer in winter.

For example, before you jump up and say, “I need windows,” let us help you understand that windows are lowest on the list of energy saving priorities. There are good reasons to replace windows, such as if they are broken, rotted, or inoperable, but they are the most expensive in the energy upgrade process and have an approximate 20- to 70-year payback for energy savings.
The really good news is that some of the most effective measures in an energy retrofit are also some of the least expensive.

Icicles like this are a good sign your home has energy issues that could be addressed before next winter.

So, how to get started? The City of Holland is hosting a free Home Energy Retrofit Open House from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, July 15 at the Civic Center Place. Attendees can talk with HER auditors, homeowners who have retrofitted and upgraded their homes, contractors, city staff and local nonprofits that provide resources for income qualified households.
People may also contact Ken Freestone at the City of Holland for more details on getting an energy audit and to find out other resources available through the program.

 Ken Freestone is the residential energy advisor for the City of Holland. Ken can be reached at or (616)355-1364.

If You Go
What: Home Energy Retrofit Open House
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Monday, July 15
Where: Civic Center Place
Why: A free event to explore resources for saving home energy costs

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.