Contractor Q&A: Dr. Energy Saver John Haines on His Encore Career as a Michigan Saves Contractor

Dr. Energy Saver John Haines

Smart Energy: Can you share a little about yourself, your background, and how you came to your second career as a residential energy efficiency contractor?

Haines: My second career is working for Dr. Energy Saver, where I’ve been for 4 years. I have an Energy Management Specialist degree from Lansing Community College and a Business Administration degree from Michigan State University. I am certified through Building Performance Institute as a professional building energy analyst. As program manager, I oversee our corporate partnership programs, our school fundraising programs and our community outreach programs.
Before Dr. Energy Saver, I was a program manager for a Division of Reader’s Digest in Southeast Michigan where I oversaw hundreds of fundraising programs for schools and youth groups representing 30,000 students a year. When I retired from this career, I wanted to pursue something I could be passionate about, so I enrolled in Lansing Community College’s Alternative Energy Technology program and fell in love with residential energy efficiency from the moment of my first project.

Smart Energy: Why do you spend your time and talent helping people make their homes more energy efficient?

Haines: I do this because there are so many positive outcomes when we help make people’s homes more energy efficient. We save people money; we make their houses more comfortable; we lower the carbon footprint; we improve the environment; and we address safety issues that may be discovered during our assessment of the home.

Smart Energy: Can you recall an instance where you felt you really made a difference to a customer’s life in an unexpected way?

Haines: I did an assessment for an MSU professor who was looking to improve his comfort and lower his energy bills.  During the inspection, we discovered his attic had a terrible mold problem that was causing structural damage to the roof. We then showed the pictures of the mold/damaged roof to his family only to find out that they had recently been exhibiting allergy-like symptoms. We not only recommended energy upgrades to improve his comfort issues and high bills, but we also recommended a reputable roofing company and air quality consultants. The homeowner ended up doing our work and the recommended work of our referral companies. The professor was happy with the solutions we provided and thankful for the improved comfort and energy savings.

Smart Energy: What advice do you have for contractors to help them help their customers understand energy financing?

Haines: My advice is to make sure that contractors keep their energy analysts up to date on all of the great Michigan Saves financing options that are available, and have a complete understanding of how they help Michigan become more energy efficient. I also would recommend that the analysts always talk to the homeowners about the financing options that are available to them, and emphasize that the application process is a fairly quick and easy one that can be done right in the home during the assessment.

Smart Energy: Most energy efficiency work happens in places that no one sees—the guts of the home: basements, crawlspaces, attics, and sidewalls—to help customers solve some of their toughest problems. People don’t see energy efficiency but they can feel it. How do you explain this to customers?

Haines: It’s interesting that you ask this question. Dr. Energy Saver actually has an assessment process that helps homeowners really understand where the energy inefficiencies and comfort or safety issues are. We utilize the latest in equipment to help people see these problems. Thermal cameras, digital cameras, smoke pencils, and the blower door help show homeowners leaks and poor insulation areas. Gas detectors, humidity testers, and carbon monoxide detectors that we use help identify safety issues that may be occurring in the house. Of course, we also have great tools as part of our software program that interact with the homeowners to give them a complete understanding.

Smart Energy: What do you like most about this business?

Haines: I really like hearing from homeowners that they are happy with the entire Dr. Energy Saver process from beginning to end. This could be anything from a homeowner commenting at the assessment that they really appreciated the professionalism of our office staff in setting the appointment; to a comment during the assessment that they now have a better understanding of how their house loses energy; a phone call about the timeliness of our production team that did the work; or a testimonial letter about the improved comfort and energy efficiency after the work is done.

Smart Energy: What community partners have really helped you gain traction and make headway in your business?

Haines: Various educational and outreach programs run by Clean Energy CoalitionWest Michigan Environmental Action Council and Michigan Energy Options have been helpful.

Smart Energy: And for a challenge: if you could waive a magic wand and change one thing about the industry, public opinion, or the environment in which we operate, what would it be and why?

Haines: I would provide education at every level from grade school to college about our individual and family environmental impacts, and how doing the most basic things daily can change the outcome for our world. Some examples include installing smart thermostats, turning electronic devices and chargers off when not in use, replacing incandescent lights, replacing air filters more frequently, setting the thermostat to an appropriate temperature, upgrading to energy star appliances, and sealing up leaks in the home.

Smart Energy: Why do you choose to work with Michigan Saves when there are other options for supplying your customer’s financing needs?

Haines: Michigan Saves provides a variety of financing options depending on the situation of the homeowner. They will finance up to $30,000 worth of upgrades and they have compiled data into easy-to-read literature from previous customers that show the actual energy savings and comfort improvements. They also act as a quality assurance partner with the homeowner as they keep a list of contractors in good standing. Michigan Saves also responds to recommended improvement suggestions from our company.