Get Energized for Efficiency

Energy Upgrade California offering rebates up to $6,500 for boosting energy efficiency
Fridays On the Homefront
The mindset pictured here (scribbled in yellow over this vintage Eichler photo) was common to many homeowners in the 1950s. Today, there’s a new outlook, says Energy Upgrade California. Photo: Ernie Braun
Fridays On the Homefront
Fridays On the Homefront
Blown-in foam insulation is one form of effective wall insulation.

With their walls of glass and frequently uninsulated ceilings, California modernist homes of the mid-century were designed to suit the coastal region's mild temperatures—but not for the current era of rising utility costs.

Such homeowners need not despair, however, because help is on the way in the form of home upgrade rebates, courtesy of your local utility and Energy Upgrade California. The latter is a program funded by utility customers and mandated by the California Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission.

Energy Upgrade California administers a home upgrade program featuring rebates of generally up to $6,500—and in rare cases more—depending on the efficiency of energy upgrades done to your single-family home.

"The first step is finding a contractor to work with," says Ari Vanrenen, spokeswoman for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., explaining that the contractor has to be licensed and has to have been trained and approved for their home upgrade program.

Contractors on the approved list, says Vanrenen, have not only demonstrated the necessary skills to be in the program but have been trained to do required safety checks, energy assessments, and, eventually, the paperwork necessary to process the rebates.

"All these people are trained in the 'whole home energy' approach," says Vanrenen. "They're the folks who determine which upgrades are best for the home."

"The next step is, the contractor will do a whole-home energy assessment," she continued, adding that this includes a thorough evaluation of the heating, cooling, and water heating systems in the home. In particular, she says, they are looking for duct or insulation leaks, problems with appliances, and "any other sources of energy waste."

After the assessment, the contractor meets with the homeowner to review the results and make a plan.

"The homeowner and the contractor will work together to determine which upgrades to make," says Vanrenen. "The total rebates depend on the types of upgrades chosen."

"There has to be at least one of the base measures," the PG&E spokeswoman said of the two-tiered choices in their home upgrade program, the base tier being attic insulation and air sealing; whole building air sealing; and duct sealing or replacement.