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      Assessing your home's energy consumption

      Tucker Brandt doesn't work out of an office. As owner of the "Energy Guys," his daily grind takes place inside people's homes."We do energy assessments for homeowners, said Brandt. Our ultimate goal is to help homeowners reduce their energy costs."From top to bottom, Brandt works his way through houses, checking insulation, installing energy-saving faucet heads and programmable thermostats.With the unofficial start of winter already upon us, energy experts say now may be the best time to assess the energy consumption of your home. It's the time of year when homeowners can expect the usual increase in their heating bills.But what they may not notice is something called the Energy Optimization Charge."I've never noticed it until it was pointed out to me," reflected Angela Mason-Epper, an Ishpeming homeowner.The monthly expense was ushered in as part of the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act passed in Michigan in 2008. This law funds non-profit groups, like Energy Guys, to give free assessments to customers of energy companies like UPCO and SEMCO."We're cleaning up the environment, we're reducing the carbon footprint of the U.P. and helping people with their energy costs," Brandt said. But a month after the assessment of her 3,000-square-foot home, Mason-Epper says she's still waiting for results."Well, I haven't recognized it yet, but I anticipate it will," Mason-Epper said.Mason-Epper says her hope lies in the dozen of her friends that have seen savings from similar assessments.