Replacing lights, beefing up insulation, weatherizing and other energy-efficiency measures can cut power consumption and costs. In fact, the nation's energy chief, Steven Chu, calls efficiency the "low-hanging fruit" of the clean-energy movement.
Commercial and residential buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the nation's energy consumption, according to this study. Even a Math-challenged Journalism grad like myself can see the potential for significant savings. How significant? Up to $33 billion per year by 2030.
Closer to home, officials in the city of Fresno crunched utility data and determined that a citywide reduction in energy use of 30 percent would save property owners a whopping $260 million. That windfall would then be spent in the community to help stimulate the economy. Here's more on the Fresno analysis.
What's in it for you? A free energy audit of my 1,400-square-foot, 18-year-old house in Clovis determined that $1,700 worth of upgrades (after rebates) would shave $50 per month off my electricity bill - which equates to a three-year payback. It's free money after that point. That's not a bad investment.
My audit was through the Home Energy Tune-Up offered by the city of Fresno in cooperation with Energy Upgrade California - and available in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties. A list of recommended contractors who can do the work is provided.
A similar Energy Upgrade California program is available in the service areas of Pacific Gas & Electric and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) through GreenerSolutions of Stockton.
Sometimes it costs money to make money. Energy efficiency is that way, but Hayden Logan, owner of GreenerSolutions, says the investment is well worth it. "You can see how much energy you can save by spending only a little money," he said.
Many property owners have to finance the energy improvements, but there are ways to do that. One of the most common is the CHF Residential Energy Retrofit Program, for which GreenerSolutions is an approved contractor. The program provides no-and low-interest loans (up to 3%) without requiring a home appraisal or a minimum credit score.
However, there are income requirements, which can be found here (some examples: $32,820-$87,500 in Fresno County; $39,240-$104,640 in San Joaquin County; and $45,060-$120,160 in Sacramento County.)
GreenerSolutions also offers financing through its own in-house program, or through energy-efficient mortgages (which are used in conjunction with purchases or refinancing).
Energy Upgrade California and similar programs offer an opportunity for property owners to get more green in their pocketbooks while living a greener lifestyle.
Photo of Fresno City Hall