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Find out if you save on your PG&E home bill

Home Maintenance Series
By: Paul Apfel Inside Lincoln Correspondent
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Diagnosis is often the first step in solving a problem or curing an ailment. In the energy field, that diagnosis is frequently referred to an as energy audit. And Placer County residents have a few options to consider in taking this first step to solve energy problems. Pacific Gas and Electric sponsors one program and participates in another that can provide energy audits for some homeowners. The two programs, however, stand alone and are not directly related. PG&E does not provide free energy audits for all its customers, according to spokesperson Brittany McKannay. “However, if our customers qualify for the Energy Assistance Program, they can receive a free energy audit, educational materials on energy efficiency and other measures based on the needs of the customer’s home,” McKannay said. The PG&E Energy Savings Assistance Program is part of the PG&E Breathe Easy Solutions Program that has been in place for more than 25 years, according to McKannay. It is based on a renter’s or homeowner’s income and number of persons living in the household, beginning with one to two people and a total combined annual income of $31,800. Interested customers can go online to pge.com/energysavings or phone (800) 989-9744 to learn more about the program. McKannay also cited online tools, such as the energy calculator that is available for all customers to use in calculating appliance-related energy savings. That calculator is online at pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/resources/appliancecalculator/. Placer County residents may also be eligible for home improvement rebates, incentives and financing through a statewide energy program sponsored by the California Energy Commission. PG&E participates in this program but not as part of its Breathe Easy Solutions. Launched in March 2011, the Energy Upgrade California Program is a “one-stop energy efficiency program to eliminate customer confusion and to increase energy savings,” according to Christine Collopy, program manager for the California Energy Commission. Customers can now visit just one website, energyupgradeca.org, to plan upgrade projects, locate participating contractors and find rebates, financing and other incentives. Funded in part by federal stimulus dollars, the Energy Upgrade program is administered by the California Energy Commission in partnership with public and private utilities, the California Public Utilities Commission and Placer County. Placer County is one of 30 participating counties throughout the state. The website was designed, Collopy said, to walk customers through the program, providing them with an opportunity to focus on their county and its unique overview, list participating contractors and energy raters, and provide information about financing and available rebates and incentives for various appliances and projects. Energy audits are available by selecting a rater certified by CalCERTS, currently the sole energy commission-approved provider. Raters conduct an independent assessment of a home’s energy use and issue an official certificate showing the home’s energy rating. It’s then up to the homeowner to arrange for a participating contractor to perform any recommended work. Participating contractors are listed on the same page as the energy raters’ information. Customers searching the energy website can find rebates and incentives ranging up to $4,000, depending on the amount of energy saved. One example cited shows a homeowner becomes eligible for a $1,500 rebate from PG&E if the improvements reduce energy by15 percent. Placer County residents can also take advantage of several financing options. Homeowners with a maximum income of $120,160 may be eligible for an energy loan with a 3 percent interest rate. More details are listed in the website’s financing section. PG&E has been active in providing solutions for income-qualified households, according to McKannay. The California Alternative Rates for Energy Program provides a monthly discount on energy bills for income-qualified households. Contact pge.com/care or phone (866) 743-2273 for details. The Family Electric Rate Assistance Program is also available to offer a monthly discount on electric bills for income-qualified households of three or more. The website at pge.com/fera has more information or customers can phone (800) 743-5000. PG&E offers general information about all their programs online at pge.com or phone (800) 933-9555.