The Piccolo family said they bought a 100 year old house on Thomas Street, in Southtown Grand Rapids nine years ago because of the charm.   Janet Piccolo says she the home needed some work right away.

"You do the cosmetic things first.  We painted, got new furniture, remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, the things you want done the first time around," said Piccolo.  "We didn't realize how cold until we had kids."

She said the old home also had other problems like lead-based paint.  Piccolo said while she was getting her children checked out on that issue she was told of a energy audit offered by Grand Rapids.

That's what brought Doug Stak and Justin Stadt, from the city's Community Development Department, to her house. 

"People call us when they need repairs done to their homes and they can't afford to finance them on their own," said Stek.

They came with some high-tech devices used for measuring heat loss.

One such device is an infrared camera that shows exactly where in the house heat is escaping.  The experts paired that device with a make-shift wind tunnel called a "blow-door".

Stadt said the purpose of the blow door is to exaggerate any areas where a draft is present, "It simulates 50 mile per hour wind on all sides of the house."

Once the experts make the assessment, they put the homeowners in touch with contractors who bid on making the upgrades to the house.

In addition to giving homeowners tools to get the work done, the city's Community Development will also help with a loan to get the work complete thanks in part to a $200,000 grant from the Joyce Foundation.

Stek said, "As much as 70% of the loan can be forgiven at the lowest income levels."

The program is only offered to those who qualify.  For more information on who can apply for this and other similar programs please visit the Grand Rapids Community Development website