As the cold weather sets in, energy bills creep higher.

If you think the only way to make your home more energy efficient is through costly new windows or doors, you've been duped.

A new program is helping to dispel energy myths and guide homeowners through the energy upgrade process to get the best bang for their buck.

Nathan and Angela Kerr bought their Roanoke home about six months ago.

“This is the house we want to live in for the rest of our lives,” said Nathan Kerr.

The Kerrs love their new house, but it's nearly 100 years old.  So, they invited in some experts to snoop around.

“It was built almost 100 years ago, so there are a lot of gains to be had in construction and technology that we want to take advantage of,” said Kerr of why he's having an energy audit.

The Kerrs' home is the first in Roanoke to be part of cafe2, which is a non-profit program through Community Housing Partners that helps homeowners find ways to reduce energy usage.  The program recently launched in Roanoke and Blacksburg.

“Believe it or not, we're not selling anything other than information,” cafe2 director Gregg Lewis said. “We believe homeowners are going to do a better job of making the investment they want to make in their homes, if they have the information to direct that spending towards the things that are going to provide the best benefit to them.”

The process starts with an energy audit, which includes a complete tour of the house to assess problem areas. The biggest culprit is usually leaks.

“I think we're too conditioned. If it’s cold, we turn up the heat. If it’s hot, we turn up the air,” said Kerr. “And I don’t think that’s the best way to do it. There's other ways, other simple things you can do, outside of big investments like windows that can make a difference so you don’t have to do that.”

In fact, buying new windows is one of the last things cafe2 recommends as a good investment. 

”Air sealing a home and insulating a home are the two most cost effective ways to improve energy performance,” said Lewis. "Air sealing can cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000, depending on the extent of the leakage."

At the end of the audit, the problems are laid out and the solutions suggested. Cafe2 even has a database of qualified contractors to do the work.  It also helps find tax breaks and incentives to pay for the upgrades.

 “The good thing is, you’re an educated consumer,” said Kerr. “You see exactly what you need to do, how much it costs, and when you make that money back. So, I think it’s a no brainer.”

The initial energy audit costs anywhere from $300-$500, but cafe2 will rebate that money if the homeowner does any of the energy upgrades suggested.

“We are an independent, third party organization, non-profit, that is in place specifically to help homeowners walk through the process and gather the information; making sure their investment is a sound investment, and making sure after the fact that the work was done in a high quality way,” said Lewis.