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March 15, 2011 > New state program offers rebates for energy efficiency home improvements

New state program offers rebates for energy efficiency home improvements

Submitted By Ayaka Emoto

Alameda County homeowners can now qualify for rebates and financial incentives of up to $4,000 to implement energy-saving home improvements as part of a new statewide program called Energy Upgrade California. As part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Alameda County expects to upgrade 6,000 homes over the next two years.

To achieve the greatest efficiency gains and help homeowners qualify for the largest incentive available, Energy Upgrade California emphasizes a "whole house" approach, rather than piecemeal improvements, as the most efficient and effective way to save money and energy. An energy upgrade can increase a home's efficiency by 10 to 40 percent through "fixed" improvements like insulation, duct sealing and energy-efficient windows.

"For many of us, our home is our biggest investment," said Wendy Sommer, Principal Program Manager at StopWaste.Org, the local government agency that is leading Energy Upgrade California in Alameda County. "Energy Upgrade California is here to help homeowners get rebates on home improvements that make a home greener, healthier to live in and more attractive to potential buyers.

"Many energy upgrades also improve indoor air quality and keep indoor temperatures comfortable during hot and cold weather," Sommer added.

A variety of energy upgrades are available through the program, allowing homeowners to choose the option that best suits their budget and needs. The Basic Upgrade Package achieves a 10 to 15 percent reduction in energy use through simple, low-cost home improvements that can be completed by a participating contractor in just a few days. The Basic Package qualifies for a $1,000 rebate through PG&E and includes attic sealing, attic insulation, duct sealing, hot water pipe insulation and temperature-controlled shower heads.

The Advanced Upgrade Package, which is tailored based on the results of an individual Home Energy Assessment, can reduce a home's energy use by as much as 40 percent through measures like installing a high-efficiency furnace, solar-powered water heater and energy-efficient windows. Advanced Upgrades qualify for larger incentives of up to $4,000 from PG&E, based on the level of energy efficiency achieved. In addition, depending upon the improvements installed and where the homeowner lives, other local rebates and tax credits may also apply.

To be eligible for the rebates and incentives, the work must be performed by an Energy Upgrade California trained contractor. For the past six months, Energy Upgrade California has been working to recruit qualified local contractors, educate them about the program and provide workshops and trainings. All contractors participating in the program undergo specialized training before performing home energy upgrades, and are part of an ongoing quality assurance program. For a list of participating Alameda County contractors, visit www.EnergyUpgradeCA.org.

In Alameda County, Energy Upgrade California is partnering with local Lowe's stores to educate residents about home energy efficiency, providing information and educational activities at local farmers markets throughout March.

Energy Upgrade California represents a critical first step toward sustainable living. To encourage residents to green their homes further, StopWaste.Org also offers rebates for GreenPoint Rated, a label that represents the gold standard in green homes. GreenPoint Rated homes may include sustainable building materials; less toxic paint, wood finishes and adhesives; solar panels and low-water landscaping.

Energy Upgrade California will be at the following farmers' markets between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. helping to educate and engage with residents about home energy efficiency:

Union City Farmers' Market (Smith & Watkins Streets) on March 12 & 26; Fremont Irvington Farmers' Market (Trimboli Way & Bay Street) on March 13 & 20, and Pleasanton Farmers' Market (Main & W. Angela Street) on March 19.

To learn more about available rebates, tax credits and the benefits of a home energy upgrade, or for help finding a qualified local contractor, Alameda County homeowners can visit www.EnergyUpgradeCA.org and select their county from the menu or call the Bay Area Energy Upgrade California Hotline at 1-855-464-8484.

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