When Judy Quittman had to take her 2-year-old daughter to the emergency room due to an asthma attack, she knew it was time to do something about the mold growing in her home.
Quittman was one of the first Richmond residents to take advantage of Energy Upgrade California, a program assisting homeowners in upgrading and “greening” their homes to save on energy bills and make for a healthier, eco-friendly home environment.
The upgrade – proper insulation and double-paned windows – got rid of the mold. It also meant lower PG&E bills and less freeway noise. “We haven’t been sick. I’m really happy,” said Quittman. “And the whole PG&E thing – I didn’t really believe [the bills] would be lower. But it really is lower.”
Thanks to two new rebates announced by the City of Richmond Wednesday night, the program is now more accessible and affordable.
In addition to PG&E’s rebate incentive of up to $4,000 to reduce home energy use through an assessment and upgrade with Energy Upgrade California, Richmond is now offering a $250 rebate for the home energy assessment – a typical cost of $200 to $300 – and an additional $5,000 rebate for upgrade work.
Contra Costa County is also offering a 20 percent rebate for homeowners who choose the “PG&E Advanced Package” to upgrade their home, which includes high-efficiency heating and cooling, duct sealing, low flow shower heads and other energy-efficient measures.
So what does this all mean for Richmond residents who want more energy efficient homes?
For starters, affordability. “An average [upgrade] job costs about $12,000 gross, but with all the new rebates, they might get $9,000 or $10,000 back,” said Ori Skloot, the president of Advanced Home Energy, at Wednesday night’s workshop, “The Smart Approach to Lower Energy Bills and a Comfortable, Healthy Home.”
“The rebates are awesome. I’ve never seen anything like it in the many years I’ve been doing this,” said Skloot.
There is, however, a caveat. All assessments, upgrades, and rebates must be given and completed by March 31, 2012. Anyone can take advantage of the rebates – until federal stimulus money runs out. But there’s a lot of that to be had, says Skloot.
In the United States, buildings – and in particular, residential buildings – account for the most greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A lot of that is due to air leakage, poor insulation and inefficient duct sealing.
A home energy upgrade could provide between 15 and 40 percent savings on energy bills, said Bay Area Energy Upgrade Specialist Jeffery Liang, who emceed the workshop. By taking measures like properly sealing windows and ducts and installing high-efficiency furnaces and insulation, a home upgrade can correct problems with water overuse, overheating and drafty windows, among other issues.
Pre-home upgrade, homeowners usually pay close to 49 cents per kilowatt of electricity, but the program wants to help get that down to 11 cents per kilowatt, according to Liang.
With the two new rebates and those provided by the county and PG&E, Richmond homeowners can save up to $14,000 on home upgrade projects. In addition, a solar rebate of $3,000 to $7,000 is available, if homeowners decide to install photovoltaic panels.
The workshop also introduced the CHF Residential Energy Retrofit Program, which provides 15-year loans at a fixed 3 percent interest rate to pay for energy efficiency improvements. The idea is to give Richmond homeowners a chance to finance 100 percent of the project up front. If residents qualify and choose the CHF loan, they will then qualify for free assessments and a grant of 15 percent of the project cost.
Energy Upgrade California is teaming up with local Building Performance Institute-certified contractors like those from RichmondBUILD to do the home upgrades. A list of contractors, who will even fill out the rebate paperwork for the homeowners, can be found on the program’s website.
“Given the financial package, I would say yes, we’re going to do this,” said Richmond Heights resident Christian Chandler, a homeowner of two years who is about to have a baby. “I’m in awe of the financial support, of how Richmond is kicking in an extra amount and how it dovetails into getting Richmond to work.”
For more information about home energy upgrade options and rebates in Richmond, visit www.energyupgradeca.com.