MARQUETTE - As the holiday season reaches its peak, images of family gatherings around a warm fire, eggnog in hand, are called to mind.
But what isn't called to mind is how much of that warmth is leaking out of people's homes, causing them to pay for utilities they aren't even using.
Tucker Brandt of The Energy Guys has found a way to combat this issue, at no direct cost to his customers.
The Energy Guys owner Tucker Brandt checks her home’s the thermostat of Marquette resident Peggy Loy. Brandt’s company offers free energy assessments to UPPCO and SEMCO customers. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
Brandt's company is one of many companies statewide that receive payment from the Upper Peninsula Power Company and SEMCO customers in the form of an Energy Optimization Charge, an item many may not even notice on their bill.
The charge is a part of the 2008 Michigan Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, which funds groups like The Energy Guys, so they can offer free energy assessments to UPPCO and SEMCO customers.
"I've always been interested in green energy and how to make homes more efficient," Brandt said, adding that now, he can help other people share that interest.
Brandt said he'd like to get Northern Michigan University students involved with his company as well.
"Maybe somebody in the alternative energy field, give them a part-time job helping out with assessments," he said.
The home inspections take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, Brandt said, and they are relatively unintrusive. He checks the attic, the basement, windows, doors, things that homeowners don't necessarily need to point out to him.
"They can just go right along with what they're doing," he said.
Though Brandt's company is still relatively new, he said he's already checked more than 100 homes in the area and found outdated things that waste energy, including old newspaper used as insulation, homes without storm windows, old and inefficient furnaces and no weather stripping on doors.
According to www.need.org, the website of the National Energy Education Development Project, homes and buildings, including commercial, use one third of all the energy in the country to heat or cool rooms.
Installing storm windows and weather stripping are simple ways to lower that number, Brandt said.
"We're trying to get people to reduce their dependency on gas and oil, and go toward alternative energy, increasing the energy efficiency in their home," Brandt said.
Brandt's company, The Energy Guys, can be contacted for appointments at 906-361-4828.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.