South LA homeowners urged to do energy upgrades

imageLisa Brown received a home energy makeover from Energy Upgrade last Spring.

Lisa Brown remembers rarely having to turn the air conditioner on in her home last summer — making her energy bill unrecognizable.

Last year, Brown, who is an insurance agent in Los Angeles, won a home energy makeover contest from Energy Upgrade California, a program encouraging California residents to make their homes more energy efficient.

“It’s great, now that my home has been upgraded the temperature always stays the same in my house, I don’t get dust coming up through the floorboards anymore either,” Brown said.

Brown lives in a one-story ranch style home in Baldwin Hills and as part of the contest she had new insulation, heating, toilets, shower faucets and a new water heater installed.

“Our energy bill is about 20 percent lower than we were paying before the upgrade,” Brown said.

Additionally, Brown’s home value jumped up $30,000 — a 6 percent increase from its previous value of $495,000.

Through the Energy Upgrade program, South Los Angeles residents are eligible for up to about $5,300 in rebates when they make similar upgrades to their home.

Homeowners who take part in the program can receive up to $4,000 in rebates from the county, as well as up to $1,280 in rebates from Southern California gas while funds last.

imageInsulation added to Lisa Brown’s crawl space prevents dust and cold from coming up into her home.

Participants can choose one of three upgrade packages offered by Energy Upgrade. The basic package includes attic insulation and appliance safety testing among other installations — upgrades that are estimated to amount in a 10 percent savings on your energy bill.

“We really want people to be looking at their home as a comprehensive energy system and how they can make it more efficient,” said Doris Do, project manager for the Energy Champions program – a pilot program that is part of Energy Upgrade California in Los Angeles County.

But there are other reasons to complete the upgrade as well, including health issues, money savings and the environment.

“Upgrading your home will greatly reduce the amount of indoor air pollution that causes a lot of health problems with young children,” Do said.

The average cost of a basic upgrade in Los Angeles County is about $6,600, but it varies per house based on the size of the house and extent of the project. Rebates vary based on the amount of work done.

“We know it’s a large chunk of money for people to put up front, but we think it’s an investment that people should make, especially while rebates are available to help with that cost” Do said.

Energy Upgrade has several financing options, including lower interest rates for low-income families.

To participate in the program, homeowners need to use designated contractors, found on the Energy Upgrade website and set up an assessment and to complete upgrades.

Another benefit of the Energy Upgrade program is that participants can designate local organizations that the Coalition has designated as “energy champions” and the program will donate to those organizations.

There are about a dozen energy champions in the South Los Angeles area, including the Education Consortium of Central Los Angeles (ECCLA) that works to improve education throughout Central and South Los Angeles.

Each time the organization is designated for a basic upgrade it will receive $100. For an advanced upgrade, the organization will receive $500 from the program. Participating homeowners will need to submit a Homeowner Action Form at the time of their upgrade to make sure their organization receives the donation.

“We really hope that people who see the program and use the program will designate us as their energy champion,” said Jacqueline Hamilton, executive director of ECCLA. “That way, they can benefit local schools and do a lot of good without costing anything from their pocket.”