Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need to work with a participating contractor to qualify for rebates?

A: Yes, you must work with an Energy Upgrade CA participating contractor in order to receive the rebates. Participating contractors have completed extensive training in building science, combustion safety, and energy modeling. Participating contractors are licensed, bonded, insured, and subject to quality assurance reviews. This means that any upgrade work done to your home will be based on a "house-as-a-system" approach, making sure all systems work together as efficiently and safely as possible. Energy upgrades that follow this approach aim for homes that are more comfortable, durable, valuable, healthy, and efficient.

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Q: Do I need to get an assessment of my house to participate in the program?

A: It depends on the upgrade option you select. Advanced Home Upgrade requires you to complete a whole-home energy assessment. Home Upgrade does not require an assessment. However, Home Upgrade does require you to complete a combustion appliance safety test, which checks for carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks from appliances such as stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters. The Home Upgrade Advisor can help you understand the differences between these available options and help you determine which best suits your home’s needs.

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Q: How much does the energy assessment cost?

A: Typically, an energy assessment costs around $200-$500. Depending on the contractor, it may be less or more. You should do some research because participating raters and contractors can charge differently. During the assessment, your contractor or rater will spend several hours at your home testing how efficient it is, and then several more hours back at the office to evaluate the results, create a software model of your home, and generate a report. Speak to contractors directly to ask them about their process and associated costs. You may receive estimates from multiple participating contractors. But remember that the contractor you select to complete the upgrade work will need to conduct their own assessment of your home in order to process any Advanced Home Upgrade rebates.

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Q: How much can I expect an upgrade to cost?

A: The cost of an upgrade can vary significantly, depending on the size of your house, your particular scope of work, and many other factors. On average, the cost of an Advanced Home Upgrade is around $12,000, with an average rebate of around $3,000. But do not focus on these numbers. You can work with your participating contractor to craft an upgrade that works with your budget and your priorities. When the assessment is complete, your participating contractor will provide you with a proposal containing their recommendations. You can work with them to add or remove items as you see fit. If the Home Upgrade is a better fit for you, the cost will still vary based on the above factors.

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Q: What financing programs are available to help cover the remaining cost after the rebate?

A: Many different financing options are available to help you cover the cost of an energy upgrade. Contact a Home Upgrade Advisor to discuss financing options that help you meet your goals. Then, the Home Upgrade Advisor will help you get in touch with a financing professional who can help you further evaluate your options.

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Q: I usually try to get bids from three contractors before choosing one for a project. Does that mean I would have to get three assessments?

A: Most participating contractors will want to do their own assessment of your home before creating a proposal for you. Therefore, it is best to feel comfortable with your contractor selection BEFORE you get your assessment, to avoid having to pay for multiple assessments. Ask a Home Upgrade Advisor about participating contractors that serve your area. You can look at contractor locations, specialties, and websites. Make a list of contractors that look like a good potential fit. Then call or email them to explain your particular concerns about your house. Ask questions about their qualifications, work practices, availability, and pricing. Through this process, you should gain a sense of who you would feel comfortable working with for both your assessment AND your upgrade project. In addition, a group of professionals called Independent Whole House Raters can conduct an independent assessment that you can use to compare bids from multiple contractors. However, additional testing by a participating contractor is still required to qualify for the utility incentives. Contact your Home Upgrade Advisor for a list of questions you can ask to help you select a contractor or rater that is a good fit for you.

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Q: How long does the process typically take?

A: The time from assessment to rebate received can vary significantly, based mostly on the size of the project and your involvement throughout the process. Assuming a homeowner is ready to sign the contract and move forward with the project relatively quickly, a rough average is around 6‒8 weeks from assessment to rebate check in hand.

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Q: What if my home is served by propane or a municipal utility?

A: Home Upgrade is available to Pacific Gas & Electric customers living within the nine-county BayREN region. Unfortunately, homes served by propane are not currently eligible to participate in the rebate programs. Residents of the cities of Palo Alto and Alameda can refer to their municipal utility. City of Santa Clara residents are eligible for partial rebates depending on their energy savings.

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Q: What if I want to do the work myself? Wouldn’t it be cheaper?

A: If you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, it may be less expensive to do some or all of the work yourself. DIY projects, however, are not eligible for the rebate. Furthermore, unless you have completed building science and combustion safety training and own the appropriate tools (blower door, duct leakage tester, manometer, infrared camera), you are less likely to achieve the maximum energy savings identified by a participating building performance contractor. And you could potentially create a health and safety issue in your home. If you would still like to focus on DIY improvements, a Home Upgrade Advisor can send you more information specific to your project. A Home Upgrade Advisor’s goal is to make sure you have all the necessary information before you make a decision that can affect the health and safety of your home.

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Q: Can I participate in the program for multiple homes and my rental properties?

A: You definitely can. Each home, condominium, or other unit you own is eligible for an energy upgrade. The rebate is administered per dwelling, not per person.

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Q: Can I do an energy upgrade as part of a remodel that includes an addition?

A: Remodeling is a great time to consider an energy upgrade because it can help you ensure the remodeling is following the best practices to minimize energy consumption in your home. If an addition is part of the remodel, it is possible to participate in the Advanced Home Upgrade program and receive a rebate. However, the modeled energy savings for the entire project need to compensate for the extra energy use that will come from the added space.

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Q: I am interested in solar energy. Are there rebates available for that?

A: Absolutely. Energy efficiency and renewables go hand in hand. It makes sense to install energy efficiency improvements in your home before going solar. It can help reduce the size of the solar system needed to meet your energy requirements, reducing the upfront cost. The California Solar Initiative, known as “CSI,” is the incentive program for solar electricity. “CSI-Thermal” is the incentive program for solar water heating. CSI is no longer accepting new applications. CSI-Thermal currently has no funding for incentives if you heat your water with electricity or propane; however, applications are being placed on a waitlist. Being on the list does not guarantee an incentive. CSI-Thermal incentives for natural gas solar water heating systems are still available. Federal tax credits are also available. For more information, visit www.csithermal.com.

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Q: What is the difference between a contractor and a rater?

A: A Whole House Rater (known as a HERS Rater) is an independent party that conducts an assessment of your home and provides an official energy rating certificate, or score, of your home’s energy performance. A rating could be used before an upgrade to compare against contractor proposals and help evaluate them. A rating could also be used after an upgrade to communicate your home’s improved performance to other parties such as buyers or lenders (either directly or through a system like a green MLS). It can also help you qualify for an energy efficiency mortgage. Raters do not, however, do combustion safety testing, which is an important requirement for participating in the rebate programs. Getting a rating is an optional addition to the energy assessment “test-in” and “test-out” required to qualify for a rebate through the Advanced Home Upgrade program.

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Q: Will the upgrades increase the value of my home?

A: A study released in July 2012 found that California homes labeled by ENERGY STAR®, LEED for Homes, or GreenPoint Rated sell for 9% more (+/-4%) than comparable, non-labeled homes and are on the market for a shorter period of time. There is no doubt that energy upgrades consistently make significant, noticeable improvements to the comfort and efficiency of homes while potentially making them healthier and more durable. However these upgrades are typically not as visible as a granite countertop, so the key lies in communicating the benefits to parties like appraisers, buyers, and lenders. Energy performance is becoming increasingly integrated into the real estate community, and efforts like the green MLS are helping to ensure that energy performance is reflected in home values.

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Q: What is the purpose of a combustion appliance safety test?

A: A certified Building Performance Institute building analyst will perform a combustion appliance safety test before the work is completed, during the work whenever changes are made to the pressure relationships in the home, and after the work is completed. This test includes checking for carbon monoxide and natural gas leaks from appliances such as stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters. If a carbon monoxide, natural gas, or ventilation issue is detected, the contractor or rater will notify you and either correct the issue or contact a utility representative to address the matter immediately. A carbon monoxide monitor will be installed for continuous safety monitoring after the work is completed.

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Q: What is ABAG?

A: The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is the comprehensive regional planning agency and Council of Governments for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the San Francisco Bay region. The Bay Area comprises nine counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. ABAG continues to make significant strides in the areas of land use, environmental stewardship, energy efficiency, hazard mitigation, water resource protection, and hazardous waste management. All nine counties and 101 cities and towns within the Bay Area are voluntary members, representing all of the region’s population―more than seven million people. These voluntary members have a voice in regional decision-making.

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Q: What is BayREN?

A: BayREN is the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Energy Network that was established by ABAG. BayREN is composed of county-level public agencies representing ABAG’s nine-county region and half the population of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company service territory. The goals of the Regional Energy Networks are to access untapped markets to drive greater reductions in energy use, implement comprehensive upgrades with long-term savings, maximize opportunities for market transformation, create jobs, and invest ratepayer funds strategically to benefit local communities. The Regional Energy Network provides a regional framework for local governments to implement cross-sector energy strategies that will leverage other available resources, funding, and financing tools to produce deeper energy savings with greater greenhouse gas reductions.

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