New State Program Could Help Families Become More Energy Efficient

I live in your basic suburban tract house near Fresno. Fourteen hundred square feet with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a backyard pool. It was built in 1993.

Two dogs. One cat. One wife. Kid in college. But our monthly electricity bill during the summer, when Fresno fries under triple-digit temps, has been known to exceed $600. We like it cool, but not that cool.

I'm thinking an 18-year-old air conditioner could be part of the problem. Experts say that every jump in SEER rating equates to 7.5% increase in savings. So, going from a SEER 10, for example, to a new SEER 15 could potentially cut my power bills 45% .

And that's where a new California state program could benefit me, and others in a similar situation. The Energy Upgrade California plan launched this week by the Energy Commission provides up to $4,000 in rebates to homeowners who make energy-efficiency upgrades.

Using the program's Web portal, property owners can enter their zip code or county name to learn about available upgrade programs, rebates, financing options and participating contractors available to them.

Initially, the program will be available for single-family homes and multi-family properties of up to four units. Later in 2011, the program will expand to multi-family properties of five or more units. In fall 2011, the program will be expanded to include commercial properties.

Upgrades are available in two rebate packages: the Basic Upgrade Package and the Advanced Upgrade Package. The Basic Package consists of seven required elements designed to improve energy efficiency by approximately 10%, and includes a fixed rebate of $1,000. The Advanced Package is customized for the property owner, with rebates based on the energy savings achieved between 15-40 percent, with rebates ranging from $1,250 to more than $4,000, depending upon the utility provider and energy savings.

Here is a San Jose Mercury News story on the program, plus links to the CEC press release and to the Energy Upgrade California Web site.

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