Energy Efficiency

Smart Home Improvements Save Energy, Reduce Carbon and Save Money.

It’s always the right time to invest in energy efficient home improvements. The dollars you spend once will keep paying you back in energy and emission savings for years to come.

Here are some of the most effective improvements you might consider for your own home.

Energy Efficient Home

Save Energy, Reduce Carbon

Click each circle for more information.

EVs Windows Thermostats Appliances Heating & cooling Insulation Lighting Bundled improvements Water heating 65 O Solar panels Attic, Ceiling and Wall Insulationa. For 2020, incentives may be available through the 2020 PG&E Comfortable Home program.b. Ceiling insulation should be added if the depth is less than 12 inches. California Title 24 energy standards required R-19 ceiling insulation in the 1980s but now require R-38 above the ceiling and R-19 below the roof deck in VCE’s climate zone. Improving wall insulation is much more costly and less effective than ceiling insulation but is worth doing during extensive remodels. For raised floor homes insulation should be added under the floor if it was not originally installed.c. Sealing cracks and openings in the ceiling should be done at the same time as replacing attic insulation. Sealing large openings can prevent intrusion by rodents as well as air leakage. Older style “can” lights are very leaky and should be replaced with modern, air-tight LED fixtures. High Efficiency Lighting (LEDs)a. LED performance compared to incandescent and compact fluorescents:Bulb Type Lumens/Watt Lifetime, hrs.Incandescent 14 1000CFL 62 8000LED 84 25000b. In addition to lasting longer and producing more light per watt, LEDs are available to fit nearly any fixture type. They are available as screw-in (standard and candelabra), tube type, two-pin CFL, and other formats. Screw-in types directly replace incandescent lamps. Replacements for fluorescents may require removal of ballasts. Parts are available for converting most fluorescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) fixture types. c. Because LEDs generate less heat, they are safer to use. Their quality of light has also been improving and costs have fallen dramatically. High Efficiency Lighting (LEDs)a. LED lamp performance compared to incandescent and compact fluorescents:Bulb Type Lumens/Watt Lifetime, hrs.Incandescent 14 1000CFL 62 8000LED 84 25000b. In addition to lasting longer and producing more light per watt LED lamps are available to fit nearly any fixture type. They are available as screw-in (standard and candelabra), tube type, two-pin CFL, and other formats. Screw-in types directly replace incandescent lamps. Replacements for fluorescents may require removal of ballasts. Parts are available for converting most fluorescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) fixture types. Because LEDs generate less heat, they are safer to use. Their quality of light has also been improving and costs have fallen dramatically. High-Efficiency Electric Appliancesa. Refrigerator: Consider replacing your refrigerator or freezer BEFORE it breaks down. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when shopping for refrigerators or freezers. On average, ENERGY STAR refrigerators use about 9% less energy than units meeting the minimum federal standard. Get rid of that extra refrigerator or freezer in your garage or unplug when not using it.b. Cooking: If you are upgrading your kitchen, installing an electric induction cooktop has many advantages. They use electromagnetic energy to heat pots and pans, delivering 80% to 90% of the energy to the food compared to 38% for gas 70% for electric. Cooking surfaces remain cool and are easy to clean, and induction cooking does not emit nitrogen dioxide. This pollutant can lead to or exacerbate asthma, especially in young children. Read more here. Some kitchen range hoods recirculate air instead of exhausting it and do not remove odors or pollutants such as small particles (~2.5 microns) that can cause respiratory disease. To be effective, kitchen range hoods must exhaust air to the outdoors, should be relatively quiet, must have a low-speed setting of at least 100 cfm and a high-speed setting of at least 250 cfm. The Home Ventilating Institute provides listings of products and indicates which are ENERGY STAR rated.c. Washing Machines: Look for ENERGY STAR clothes washers, which typically use 20% less energy than washers that just meet the minimum federal standards and use 30% less water than regular washers. d. Clothes Dryers: To really save on energy and reduce emissions, consider drying your clothes outside during warm weather and using an indoor drying rack for small loads. Look for ENERGY STAR electric clothes dryers, which typically use 5-12% less energy than dryers meeting minimum federal standards.e. Low-Flow Showers and Toilets Low-flow showers and toilets save water and hot water costs. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panelsa. The federal tax credit in 2020 for home PV installations (also called the Solar Investment Tax Credit or ITC) is 26% of the cost of the solar system. In 2021, the tax credit will be reduced to 22% of the cost b. Many homes could generate all the energy they use on an annual basis with a 6 kW (kilowatt) system, which requires about 500 ft2 of roof area.c. Check out Google Project Sunroof to see your estimated savings over 20 years, your recommended solar installation size, your potential environmental impact, and how to finance your solar panels. d. Information for existing or new solar/net energy metered customers is provided on VCE’s website. Low-E Dual Pane Windowsa. There is a federal tax incentive in 2020 for installing ENERGY STAR windows. The tax credit is up to 10% of the cost of the windows, not including installation, with a limit of $200. More information is available here. b. Dual Pane or double glazed windows (two panes of glass separated by a sealed air space) cut heat transfer by over 70% compared to single-pane windows.c. The Low-E, or low-emissivity coating applied to the glass minimizes the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light that comes through your windows and still allows plenty of natural lighting for your home. These windows improve comfort in winter and summer and reduce fading of carpets and furniture. New windows also have lower air leakage and may have a noble gas (e.g. argon) that further reduces heat transfer. Smart/Programmable Thermostatsa. PG&E offers a $50 rebate for smart thermostats. If you are considering multiple measures, a $100 rebate is available in 2020 through qualified contractors when combined with other improvements. See the 2020 Comfortable Home Rebates list for more information. b. Heating and cooling can comprise as much as 50% of the typical home’s energy bill, costing the average homeowner more than $700 a year. c. “Smart” thermostats monitor your activity and automatically develop a schedule that suits your lifestyle and can be accessed using your smart phone. Programmable thermostats are very inexpensive and control temperatures using a schedule you select. Both can reduce heating and cooling costs and eliminate the hassle of adjusting settings. High Efficiency Heating & Coolingc. The following federal tax credits are available through 2020 for installing ENERGY STAR heat pumps and air conditioners: HSPF EER SEERSplit System Heat Pumps ≥ 8.5 ≥ 12.5 ≥ 15Package Heat Pumps ≥ 8 ≥ 12 ≥ 14Split System Air Conditioners n/a ≥ 13 ≥ 16Package Air Conditioners n/a ≥ 12 ≥ 14See the 2020 PG&E Comfortable Home Rebates list for more information about incentives.b. Consider investing in a high efficiency heat pump. You’ll see terms like HSPF (heating), SEER (seasonal cooling) and EER (cooling) to define efficiency. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. They can cost less to operate than a gas furnace and provide better comfort. Since heat pumps provide cooling as well as heating, both heating and cooling costs can be reduced by installing one.c. If you are adding a room or need to improve comfort in part of your home, consider a ductless “mini-split” heat pump. They include an indoor unit that mounts high on the wall, and an outdoor unit. The cost to operate them is typically much lower because they don’t have ducts in the attic that lose heat in winter and gain heat in summer. d. HVAC systems with inadequate duct insulation and leaky ducts may lose half their energy to the attic or crawlspace. It is not uncommon to find ducts that have become completely disconnected, and the older type duct tapes only last for a few years. State energy standards for duct insulation have almost doubled from R-4.2 to R-8 in the last decade. A good time to fix or replace ducts is when attic insulation is removed and replaced. Tightly sealed ducts can be buried in insulation to further protect them from attic temperatures that can reach over 150°F. e. Ground-source heat pumps may be worth considering if you have a large property or are building a new house. They exchange heat with the ground instead of the air, and therefore operate more efficiently and quietly. If you install a new ground source heat pump by December 31, 2020, you will be eligible for a federal tax credit 26% of the cost of the system, including installation. New shallow ground heat exchanger designs can significantly reduce the investment cost. It is critically important to work with a specialized and experienced designer or consultant. Bundled Energy Efficiency Improvementsa. The 2020 Comfortable Home Program provides rebates and incentives for homeowners willing to bundle multiple energy efficiency measures at the same time. The first step is to select a qualified contractor, who will visit your home to determine your needs and provide an estimate for the selected improvements. You can start the process by visiting 2020 Comfortable Home Program.b. You must select four measures including two “shell” and one “HVAC.” The maximum incentive is $5,500 per home. If you need attic insulation and have an older HVAC system, the recommended combination of measures includes: High Efficiency Water Heating a. Heat pump water heaters use less than half the energy of electric resistance types. If your existing water heater is in the garage or other well-ventilated area, it is always best to replace it with a heat pump water heater. b. One of the biggest energy users in your home, next to heating and cooling systems, is your hot water heater or system, which represents 14-25% of your total energy usage.c. Make sure your new water heater is energy efficient with a Uniform Energy Factor (UEF) of at least 0.92 for an electric storage type or 0.58 or higher for a gas storage type. Plumbers rarely carry efficient models on their trucks, so it is best to replace water heaters before they fail so you have time to pick an efficient model. d. If you must replace a gas water heater, strongly consider installing a tankless, instantaneous type. They have UEFs over 0.8 and some are higher than 0.9. Their only drawback is slightly higher maintenance and loss of hot water during power outages. Some manufacturers produce very efficient “condensing” storage type water heaters that are a good choice if you experience frequent power outages.e. Lowering your water heater temperature setting from 140°F to 120°F can reduce your water heating energy use by more than 10%. f. If it takes more than 30 seconds to get hot water when you turn on the tap, you are wasting water and the energy that heats it. Hot water recirculation systems shorten the waiting time by circulating hot water to your fixtures. They can be retrofitted to any plumbing system and can be activated by a wireless pushbutton or a motion sensor. Electric Vehicles a. Did you know that on average, it costs about half as much to drive an electric vehicle as a conventional gas vehicle?b. Charging your EV or plug-in hybrid car with electricity from your home allows you to take advantage of VCE’s clean energy, especially if you opt up to 100% renewable energy, UltraGreen. If everyone charged their vehicles during nighttime hours—or while their PV panels are generating electricity—it could actually lower VCE’s cost of supplying power and produce savings that could be passed on in the form of reduced rates or other benefits. For those on time-of-use rates, PV charging should be avoided from 4-9 PM when peak rates are in effect.c. Visit VCE’s website to see available models, find rebates, calculate savings and more.

SOLAR PANELS

Convert sunlight into electricity to dramatically cut energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. Find out more

LOW-E DUAL PANE WINDOWS

Reduce heat loss during the winter and heat gain during the summer with high efficiency windows. Find out more

SMART/PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS

Automatically control home temperatures to optimize comfort and savings. Find out more

HIGH EFFICIENCY ELECTRIC APPLIANCES

Induction cooking and Energy Star appliances reduce energy use and costs. Low-flow showers and toilets save water and hot water costs. Find out more

HIGH EFFICIENCY HEATING & COOLING

More efficient electric heating and cooling systems and duct sealing can save energy, improve comfort and reduce emissions. Find out more

ATTIC, CEILING AND WALL INSULATION

Your home will stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer with properly insulated attic, ceiling and walls. Find out more

HIGH EFFICIENCY LIGHTING (LEDs)

LEDs last much longer, saving energy and costs. Find out more

BUNDLED ENERGY EFFICIENCY IMPROVEMENTS

Bundle multiple measures for even greater savings. Find out more

HIGH EFFICIENCY WATER HEATING

Consider heat pump or tankless water heaters. Find out more

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Save on fuel and maintenance costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions when you charge your car with electricity. Find out more