When Ukiah building contractor Howie Hawkes of Hawkes Construction learned at a workshop last week about a significant energy efficiency rebate available to property owners who are rebuilding after the Redwood Complex fires, he thought of client Renee Vinyard.
Vinyard is rebuilding her Redwood Valley home that was destroyed in the fires. Hawkes met with her and they discussed the Sonoma Clean Power/PG&E rebates of $7,500 to $17,500 that are offered specifically to help fire victims rebuild, called the state Advanced Energy Rebuild program.
“We were super interested,” said Vinyard. “At this stage, we can make changes in the house design that would qualify us for the rebates. Building an energy efficient house makes us feel really good about the future and being able to do something about climate change. We’ll be more comfortable, particularly during tremendously hot summer days.”
Hawkes and Vinyard set an appointment to meet with Chandra Apperson of Apperson Energy Management, a certified energy analyst based in Redwood Valley. Apperson will walk them through their options, explain terminology such as high-performance attic and wall, and what’s a heat-pump water heater. If hired, she’ll complete most inspections and paperwork.
“Basically, the incentive program is designed to be fairly close to cost neutral for the customer,” said Apperson, meaning that design changes and upgraded equipment required to qualify for AER shouldn’t cost too much more than the rebate.
“But the home that is built as a result,” Apperson added, “is more energy efficient, is designed to last longer, is more comfortable and has better indoor air quality. These are things you should try to do as you are building a new home anyway.”
California’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2045 means the state is supporting home rebuilds that are tops in energy efficiency.
That’s obvious when you gather up the details and rebates available through AER. New homes qualify for up to $12,500 in rebates and include an electric vehicle charging station that is provided, free, from Sonoma Clean Power company. An additional $5,000 for up to $17,500 in rebates is available if solar panels and a storage battery are installed.
The clincher, Apperson added, is that in order to qualify for AER rebates, a certified home energy (HERS) rater must sign off on the insulation installation before the walls of the new home are sealed. Other than that, it’s simple.
People who are rebuilding homes destroyed in the fire have two options with AER: Build a new home that is 20 percent more energy efficient than the state energy code or select from a checklist of energy and water saving items to be installed in the home. Apperson usually suggests the 20 percent over code option because it offers more flexibility.
Hawkes said Vinyard’s home already was designed to be 6 percent more energy efficient than the state code. With some tweaks, he and Vineyard will try to qualify for the energy efficiency rebate.
Apperson was one of two speakers at a workshop on home energy efficiency and solar energy offered at Mendocino College by the Sustainable Construction and Energy Technology Program. Hawkes was one of about 15 energy efficiency professionals, contractors and building owners who attended. Moderator was Rose Bell, project manager for the Community Foundation of Mendocino County’s Rebuilding Our Community (M-ROC) team.
Bell said that Redwood Complex fire survivors who are rebuilding using M-ROC housing grants should consider energy efficiency rebate programs in order to maximize the impact of their rebuild dollars.
There are 132 building permits issued and 42 more in the queue at Mendocino County’s planning and building department as of an Oct. 1 update issued by Nash Gonzalez, Mendocino County disaster recovery director.
A very energy efficient home with solar panels and storage battery could be net zero energy, said the second workshop speaker, Richard Silsbee of Radiant Solar Technology, Inc. That means that, even though the home may use power from the grid during a series of rainy days, it feeds enough solar power into the grid on sunny days to zero out consumption.
Silsbee said prices of solar panels have dropped dramatically. “Now anyone can live off-grid and have the same lifestyle as someone in town,” he said. Silsbee noted that today’s solar systems often are sized to support air conditioning in summer.
Though AER prompted the most discussion at the workshop, Apperson covered energy efficiency rebates that are available to all homeowners to help offset the cost of higher-end energy efficient products. Rebates are available through Dec. 31 and then could change.
City of Ukiah residents can apply to the city for rebates of up to $1,000 per item on a wide variety of efficient windows, air conditioners, ceiling fans, attic and wall insulation, Energy Star appliances and even holiday and LED lights. Here’s a checklist: http://www.cityofukiah.com/NewWeb/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Residential-Rebates-Chart.pdf
PG&E electric and gas customers can get rebates of $50 on smart thermostats and $300 on high efficiency water heaters. With more paperwork and a PG&E energy audit, customers can earn rebates of $1,500 to $5,500 on added insulation, efficient hot water heaters and other measures that reduce energy consumption by at least 10 percent.
PG&E’s promotion says “using energy more efficiently is more than simply the right thing to do – it saves customers money on their energy bills and is the fastest, most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
For a list of certified energy analysts including Apperson, visit https://cabec.org/
Energy efficiency rebates for upgrades are available in Mendocino County, by Suzanne Pletcher, The Ukiah Daily Journal, October 28, 2018.