Homeowners and renters in Napa County looking to cut energy costs can take advantage of several programs and services offered by PG&E, MCE (Napa’s default renewable electricity provider), and BayREN (Bay Area Regional Energy Network). These programs range from home energy assessments to the installation of new appliances, heating and cooling (HVAC) systems, and other upgrades.
Reducing utility bills is just one benefit of making a home or apartment more energy efficient. Replacing inefficient heating and cooling equipment, improving home insulation, and sealing up air leaks and leaks in heating ducts also improves indoor air quality and increases home comfort year-round.
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Moreover, it has huge climate benefits. Residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, according to the US Energy Information Administration (https://www.pnas.org/content/117/32/19122).
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California has set a 2030 target of reducing GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels. To meet this goal, the California Air Resources Board is pursuing a strategy to “decarbonize” buildings by reducing GHG emissions from the building’s energy use.
This means making buildings more energy efficient and integrating appliances powered by cleaner energy sources, rather than fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and propane. This effort also requires making electricity more renewable, either from rooftop solar or large-scale renewable energy installations.
Napa County residents can choose to buy 100% renewable energy for their homes or businesses through MCE’s Deep Green program. This program costs only $5 more per month and contributes funding to new local projects and programs. We can be proud that all of Napa County’s jurisdictions are now Deep Green for their municipal operations.
PG&E Energy Savings Assistance Program
This program offers free upgrades for customers living in a house, mobile home or apartment that is at least five years old. It is available for low-income residents or those receiving government assistance, including Social Security. The program is administered by CHOC Energy in Vacaville and provides energy upgrades that include installing insulation, repairing or replacing the furnace or water heater, and replacing old refrigerators and washing machines.
Napa resident Marilyn Knight-Mendelson participated in the program in 2020. After contacting PG&E, she received a home assessment visit during which the energy specialist checked for air leaks and looked at the windows and home appliances. This was followed by a visit from the installers who installed a new, energy-efficient washing machine at no charge.
“The energy specialist was very helpful and responsive to our questions and concerns,” Knight-Mendelson said.
MCE’s Home Energy Savings Program
This program offers free upgrades for moderate income homeowners or renters in 2-4-unit buildings who don’t qualify for low-income assistance but can’t afford to make energy upgrades on their own. It is focused on home heating, cooling and water heating because this accounts for more than half of a home’s energy costs.
The program is administered by Franklin Energy, which conducts the initial virtual home energy assessment and makes recommendations for upgrades carried out by the contractor, Enso2 Building Solutions. Participants receive a free energy-saving gift box that includes a smart (programmable) thermostat, water saving showerheads and faucet aerators.
The virtual home energy assessment reviews the size of the electrical panel, location and age of water heater and HVAC systems, the amount of attic insulation, and other aspects of a home’s energy system.
Isai Reyes, the Franklin Energy representative, explained that upgrades can include attic insulation, duct sealing, hot water pipe wrapping, and replacement of inefficient water heaters and gas furnaces. A gas furnace may be replaced with an electric heat pump depending on condition and location of the furnace. All services are free and available in English and Spanish.
Reyes said, “We want to remove barriers and help as many people as possible to have a more comfortable and more energy efficient home.”
BayREN Home+ Program
BayREN provides rebates for home energy improvements and does not require that participants be income qualified. Rebates are also offered for a Home Energy Score assessment, which gives recommendations on how to improve the energy efficiency of your home.
Rebates are available for insulation (up to $1,000), duct replacement (up to $800), heat pumps ($1000), heat pump water heaters ($1,000), and other upgrades. Upgrades must be done by a BayREN qualified contractor.
Deborah Elliot, Napa County’s BayREN representative, points out that while making a home more energy efficient is the main focus of the program, electrification is encouraged because this makes a home healthier (with better indoor air quality) and more comfortable. She offers workshops in English and Spanish to explain the program. (Author’s note: I attended a BayREN workshop before starting a home remodel and was able to get a rebate of $3,000 on insulation and duct replacement.)
Use one of these programs to make 2022 the year to cut energy costs and have a healthier and more comfortable living space.
Actions you can take:
1) Enroll in MCE’s Deep Green program at www.mcecleanenergy.org/100-renewable/#DGEnroll and get 100% renewable electricity.
2) See if you qualify for PG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program at https://www.pge.com/en_US/residential/save-energy-money/help-paying-your-bill/energy-reduction-and-weatherization/energy-savings-assistance-program/energy-savings-assistance-program.page or call CHOC Energy at 707-514-4115.
3) Check out MCE’s Home Energy Savings program at www.mcecleanenergy.org/home-savings/ .
4) Review BayREN Home+ rebates at bayrenresidential.org/rebates and contact Deborah Elliot (Deborah.Elliot@countyofnapa.org) for information on workshops and the Home Energy Score.
Christina Benz is a long-time Napa resident, retired winemaker, grandmother, and co-founder of Napa Climate NOW!
Napa Climate NOW! is a local non-profit citizens’ group advocating for smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science, part of 350 Bay Area. Like, comment, and share our daily Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts @napaclimatenow or visit napa.350bayarea.org.