Government programs to save energy and money-part 2 of 2

The City, State and Federal Governments have created some programs to save energy and money for all of us- in an effort to make it attractive for us to become more self-sufficient in our generation of energy through low interest loans, rebatesand tax incentives.  All this, to help us reduce our dependence on  non-renewable and foreign energy, eliminate the need for more power generation stations and reduce rolling black outs.

Solar power is particularly popular right now.  The great thing about it is, that while your solar system is generating electricity back into the power grid, your meter runs backwards when you are using less power and forward when you are using more. The net affect is less power consumption and lower energy bills!

There is quite a lot of information out there and sorting it out is a challenge.  Luckily, there are some local organizations who can help.  Here are some places to get you started in your quest for energy independence and saving money at the same time.

  • As I was poking around on line, I found a place to calculate your carbon footprint-figuring out how much carbon monoxide you’re contributing to the atmosphere with your energy usage-both at home and in the car. http://www.pge.com/microsite/calculator
  • Get up to $1,500 tax credit for energy efficient improvements such as installation of double pane windows, attic insulation and toilet replacement-be sure to talk to your accountant to see how to claim this, as well as other available rebates and tax incentives.  A side note, the City of San Francisco now requires the installation of low-flow toilets when you sell your home, so it might be worth considering this in your list of improvements.
  • If you are replacing a hot water heater, consider replacing the outdated tank-type with an on-demand model. They are more expensive to install, but you see savings of energy and water consumption right away.
  • The City of San Francisco is (was) trying to make solar panel installation easy by making loans available to consumers. Unfortunately, for the time being, the loans are not available, as lenders would not allow the City’s loans on the property-in theory, weakening a lender’s equity.  Loans that were proposed were to be made based on the equity in your home and amortized over the life of the improvements; i.e. for solar panels, it might be a 20 year loan.  Financing the system really makes sense, as the payoff for solar installation could be 14-20 years-so the cost is spread out, along with the savings.  The theory was that the loan would have been paid off through your property taxes over time and would transfer to a new owner should you sell your home.  I’m leaving this information in, as it may come back at some point in some other incarnation.  It seems to me that the issue was that the city was making it a recorded loan, as opposed to an assessment that runs with the home and is attached to the property taxes, as opposed to the property.
  • In order to qualify for the now on-hold financing option, an energy audit was required on your home to see what improvements must be made in order to qualify for the SF loan program-the cost of the audit would have been able to be rolled into the financing (which according to One Block off the Grid is $300-400).  There is also a $300 application fee.  Please periodically check sfenvironment.org and greenfinancesf.org or call (800)803-6930 to see if the program has come back.  This is a great concept for a city government program to save energy and money.
  • See where the other solar panels in your neighborhood. www.SF.solarmap.org It also gives some interesting case studies for you to consider.
  • Solar panels even work in the fog belt, according to Occidental Power, which installs solar panels and is located in the Sunset, it’s about the light, not the heat, which energizes the solar panels, so they are fine in our area.  A few other considerations are:
    • Where the panels will be installed-on a flat or sloped roof
    • The direction of the roof-south/southwest is best
    • The amount of roof that is in the sun-shade from other buildings or trees can reduce the amount of panels that are optimum for your energy needs
    • Calculating your energy usage will dictate how large the system needs to be.
  • Plug in your current energy useage, calculate the cost of a solar panel system, time for pay off and incentives lowering the cost of the system http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/renewables/estimator/index.html Note that although there is a rebate showing from the City of San Francisco, according to SolarSF.org, money has run out and only low-income households are eligible to apply.
  • Other money saving programs include: State ($1,000-$2,500) and Federal (up to 30 percent) rebates and tax credits may be available to offset the cost of the system. Be sure and watch for these, as programs have varying requirements and time limits-for instance, the Federal Tax Credit currently lasts til the end of 2016.
  • There is a local company called One Block off the Grid that helps consumers get group rates on solar panels and installation.  They can assist with the paperwork and finding a reputable and knowledgable contractor.  They can be reached at their website www.1bog.org
  • Good luck in your quest to save energy and money and saving the environment.