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1st Step Toward Home Energy Efficiency: $175-$500

Once you've completed an energy audit, Energy Upgrade California project will provides up to $4,000 in rebates for upgrades.

1st Step Toward Home Energy Efficiency: $175-$500 1st Step Toward Home Energy Efficiency: $175-$500 1st Step Toward Home Energy Efficiency: $175-$500

Piedmont residents can upgrade their home energy efficiency and receive up to $4,000 back in rebates from PG&E and other utilities under the Energy Upgrade California program. They may also qualify for an additional rebate from the City of Piedmont.

To start, residents contemplating anything beyond very basic improvements should have their homes audited for energy usage, safety and comfort. Local contractors charge between $175 and $500 for the audits.

Building Performance Professionals, based in Martinez, currently charges $250 for an energy audit, said company owner Lowell Mason. The audit takes two people about four hours to complete, he said, and includes "energy modeling," which will show the expected energy savings under the approved scope of work.

Like other contractors, Mason said he uses expensive equipment such as blower door testing equipment (to determine how airtight a home is), infrared cameras, duct blasters and combustion analysis tools. “Each of us has about $30,000 worth of test equipment,” he said.

ABC Cooling & Heating, located in Hayward, had the cheapest price we found, with energy audits that cost $175. The audit takes three to five hours and includes inspections of the attic crawl space insulation and heating and air conditioning equipment. The work is compatible with Energy Upgrade California requirements, said company employee Mike Cecchin.

Richmond-based Advanced Home Energy offers audits that start at about $249, said employee Marisa Lee. The cost is based on square footage and other specifics of the house, and quotes can be provided over the phone. Advanced Home Energy is a licensed contractor for general construction, heating and cooling, and insulation.

Eco Performance Builders, from Marinez, charges between $400 and $500 for a home energy assessment, based on the size of the home, said Scott O’Hara, a co-owner of the company. He said the assessment includes tests for equipment efficiency and safety, such as making sure furnaces and water heaters are running properly. “There’s a lot of man-hours, software and equipment that goes into doing an assessment. It’s probably worth $800 easily,” he said.

SDI Installation, based in Burlingame, charges about $350 to $450, based on the size of the home and other factors, said Katerina Danek. She said the work is done in compliance with protocols established by the non-profit Building Performance Institute, which develops national standards for residential energy efficiency and weatherization retrofit work. “It’s not an easy task,” she said. “It’s pretty complex overall.”

Actually upgrading a home for energy efficiency costs an average of $10,000 to $12,000, said Tim Carroll of Berkeley-based MIG Consultants, which is marketing the Energy Upgrade California project, partially funded by the federal government. Carroll is renovating his own home in Montclair, and he expects it to cost $20,000, with $3,500 back in rebates and a federal tax credit, he said.

Rebates under the Energy Upgrade California program are based on the percentage of energy saved after the work is completed, up to $4,000 for energy savings of 40 percent or more. The City of Piedmont is offering an additional rebate of up to $590 to Piedmont residents for any work done under the program, including any associated assessment. Alternatively, the city offers a rebate of $190 for a professional “whole house energy performance” assessment only.

“The participating contractors should be able to handle those rebate applications,” Piedmont assistant planner Kevin Jackson said. “The city’s rebate application is pretty simple and it’s on the city’s website.”

Jackson said PG&E customers can apply for a basic rebate package, which can net them up to $1,000 from PG&E for completion of a short list of energy efficiency improvements, including sealing air leaks and ducts, and insulating attics and pipes. An energy audit is not required for a basic rebate package.

Advanced packages pay out between $1,500 to $4,000 in rebates from PG&E for improvements that may include double-pane windows, solar-powered water heaters and high-efficiency furnaces.

Carroll, of MIG Consultants, recommends that residents opt for the advanced upgrade packages because of the larger rebates and greater improvements in home energy efficiency. 

Residents can learn more about the overall program at a from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 6013 Lawton Ave., Oakland. 

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