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Rebate program aims to boost energy efficiency

Auburn workshop to discuss details
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Homeowners can learn about a “whole house” approach to energy savings and how to apply for loans and rebates for those improvements at a free workshop Oct. 26 at the Auburn Library. The workshop is sponsored by Energy Upgrade California, a collaborative program in conjunction with the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, utilities and local governments. The nonprofit puts homeowners together with trained contractors to accomplish the upgrades. It also has a required training program for contractors who want to participate, senior program director Colin Clark said this week. Among the variety of energy fixes are installing double-pane windows, setting up alternative energy such as solar panels or even replacing duct work. Participants first have a comprehensive assessment of their home’s energy use. “The goal is to have every home become 10 percent more efficient by going through the program,” Clark said. “An assessment will list the full scope of work and full list of what can be done.” Then the homeowner works with the contractor to decide which projects would most effectively curb energy use. Cost of the initial visit varies by contractor and can run from $99 to as high a $500, depending on the size of the home. “The average cost (for the improvements) in PG&E territory is about $11,500 before the rebate,” Clark said. Rebates of up to $4,000 are available from PG&E, with the amount corresponding to the amount of energy savings. “(For example), if you save 30 percent, you get a $3,000 rebate,” he said. Homeowners can finance the remaining cost of improvements with a 3 percent loan over 15 years. Energy Upgrade California’s goal is to facilitate 10,000 upgrades by the end of the contract in March. “We are up to 2,000 or so now, so we are making good progress,” Clark said. Attending the workshop At the workshop, homeowners get an overview of the program and can discuss technical questions with contractors. “We typically have a homeowner there who can share their experience of having their home upgraded and the difference it has made in their comfort and reduced energy costs,” Clark said. Rocklin resident Howard Sanderson, who initially thought he needed to replace the air conditioner in his home, has been through the process and shared his experience at several workshops. The contractor he chose was Brower Mechanical in Rocklin. “(On the initial visit) they spent more than four hours checking out the entire system, finding out the faults and taking readings of the vents and the pressure of air coming into the house,” he said. Sanderson learned the home had major ducting disintegration and was “just blowing heating and air into the attic and costing a lot of money.” After getting PG&E approval for the project’s inclusion in the rebate program, a Brower crew stripped out all the old ducting, sealed up canned light cuts in the ceiling, enlarged return vents to make the pressure flow through the house better and then installed 20 inches of insulation in the attic. “It made a huge difference,” Sanderson said. “They rated the problem at about 60 percent efficiency. After the job was done and reassessed, it came back at 96 percent efficiency.” Signing on as a contractor For projects in Placer County, Energy Upgrade California has 28 contractors for the basic package, 24 contractors for the advanced package and 29 solar contractors, Clark said. Other contractors who want to become involved can sign up for a training program that runs from Nov. 7 – 17 at the Sierra College Rocklin Campus. Cost to participate is $65. It includes three days in the classroom, one day in the field and one day of testing. Registration is available at Energy Upgrade California’s website. In addition to the training certification, contractors must be bonded and licensed with the state and have a Building Performance Institute certification. “One of the reasons the program is so focused on making sure contractors are trained, is to put them back to work,” Clark said. “The second (reason) is to make sure the work that’s being done is of high quality. That really benefits the property owner. They can be assured they are getting a contractor they can trust, who is well trained and who knows the concept well.” Clark cautions that homeowners who decide to participate in the program should get multiple bids from program-certified contractors, just as they would for any other home improvement job. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------ Energy Upgrade California workshop When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26 Where: Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St. For reservations: http://euc-auburn2 eorg.eventbrite.com For more information: www.energyupgrade ca.org