What Rebates Are Available for Energy Retrofits in 2014?

I’ve talked generally about saving money by retrofitting your home with energy efficient upgrades, but after reviewing previous columns, I realize I haven’t provided specific details about how to get money back from government entities or organizations like PG&E. So, here goes.

The City of Ukiah is offering a rebate for upgrading to energy-efficient bulbs, which is lucky for me since I am a partner in a warehouse in which half of the fluorescent bulbs needed replacing. The building has 27-foot ceilings, so changing the bulbs is not an easy undertaking, but it hurts a little less when the City is willing to foot some of the bill. I’m replacing the light fixtures because they are outdated, and I have some extra expenses because of the high ceilings, but the City is providing $11.25 per bulb. With 64 bulbs, that’s $720. The City is simultaneously supporting a local business person (me) to provide a nicer working environment for my tenants (also local residents) and preserving the natural environment in the process. You won’t hear me say this often, but I appreciate this City program. After all, we are all paying for this program in our electric bill each month, so use it to save some money and reduce the use of electricity.

More energy efficient light bulbs aren’t the only items earning rebates these days. In the City of Ukiah, rebates are available for Energy Star appliances, residential heat pump and energy efficient air conditioning, residential weatherization, residential and commercial lighting, and solar panels (photovoltaic energy). Details are online at www.cityofukiah.com/utility-services — click on the Rebates tab in the gray box toward the bottom of the page.

Many people seem interested in solar energy, but installation costs vary widely depending on geography, the height and type of building, roofing material, and more. Determining the size of your solar installation depends on your budget, your energy consumption, and whether you want to sell energy back to PG&E (the city will not buy any extra production). To determine your energy needs, check your monthly bill to see how many kilowatt-hours you use. You will need to talk to a contractor to get specific solar system specifications for your installation as well as the costs. If you have a time-of-use meter, you’ll need to determine which energy is worth replacing with solar. A time-of-use meter charges different rates based on the time of day. For peak times PG&E may charge as much as $0.45 per kwh. In the middle of the night, you may only pay $0.10 per kwh. Clearly, it’s much harder to justify solar panels if you’re only paying $0.10 per kwh, but if you’re using most of your energy during peak times, well, that’s something to look at.

It costs between $4 – $8 per watt to install solar panels. After the City rebate of $0.84 per watt and a federal tax credit, you may find that as much as 50 percent of the total installation cost could be covered. (There are rebate caps: $7,000 for residential and $25,000 for commercial.) If you need to finance the solar panels, the interest you pay on a home improvement loan is tax deductible (the loan will need to be secured by your home). You’ll be saving on the electricity bill and the extra money you would have spent on utilities would not have been tax deductible. Double win.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.