GreenTown Los Altos

Energy Rebates Chase Away January Bills, Chills


Jan 2012


By Peg Champion, GreenTown Los Altos Correspondent

It’s January.

It’s no fun checking your mailbox these days, because holiday bills have taken the place of holiday cards. It’s cold outside, and you’re chilly inside, keeping the thermostat down so your energy bill doesn’t shoot through the roof.

Ryan Church, AVA-Construction contractor, performs a blower door test to determine the amount of air leakage in the house.

The news isn’t all dreary. You can save up to 40 percent on your PG&E bill, help the environment by conserving water and energy, and make your home more comfortable, all at the same time.

But how?

GreenTown Los Altos is offering an evening workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to review several programs that can save you money. The free workshop, led by energy experts, runs from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Neutra House, 183 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos. Click here to register .

One program, the Energy Upgrade California program, entitles you to substantial energy rebates from your utility – up to $4,000 in incentives with PG&E’s Advanced Upgrade Package. Currently, the rebates are designed for single-family homes.

For a typical California home built before the 1980s, energy efficiency wasn’t part of the equation. “Energy was cheap, and the consequences of producing and using energy were not widely understood,” says Faye Rachford, an energy upgrade specialist with Energy Upgrade California. “Now, however, we look at the home as a system. We recommend that you begin with an energy assessment. As the saying goes, ‘If you can measure it, you can manage it.’” Rachford will present details of the program at the February workshop.

Sit Back and Analyze This

Los Altos Hills residents can analyze their energy use from the comfort of their own home. The High Energy Homes (HEH) program is available through Acterra at no cost to five local communities, including Los Altos Hills. HEH is a web-based software tool that can analyze your energy use in 15 minutes. It identifies “hidden energy users,” such as electronics that are turned off but still drawing power, pool pumps, recirculation pumps and many others. The analysis can determine if you are a good candidate for the energy-upgrade program, which focuses on heating and cooling efficiency.

“I was pleasantly surprised at the detail of information provided by the analysis. It gave us additional information about what upgrade strategies would be cost-effective in a format that was easy for the homeowner to understand … it helped us decide what we’re going to do,” says Keith Burtscher, a general contractor.

There are three qualifications for the HEH program: You’ve lived in your home for at least a year, you have not installed solar, and you have a PG&E SmartMeter®.  Steve Schmidt, Los Altos Hills resident and the architect of Acterra’s HEH program, will provide a program overview as part of the workshop agenda.

Margie Suozzo, chair of GreenTown Los Altos, invited residents of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to learn more about the audits and rebates. “GreenTown is offering $50 online assessments by High Energy Audits, Inc., for the first 50 homes in Los Altos that sign up to use this tool to assess their energy use. But don’t take it from me – come hear from the experts at our Feb. 1 workshop or email us at”

Peg Champion is a member of GreenTown Los Altos and the principal of Champion Organic Communications. Her work focuses on communication and education strategies to encourage sustainable behavior. For more information visit

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One Response to “Energy Rebates Chase Away January Bills, Chills”

  1. Debbie Mytels

    Thanks for this article! However, a small correction is needed.

    The High Energy Homes program is offered to residents of Los Altos Hills for FREE, based on a grant from the California Energy Commission. There is NO $50 charge to Hills residents.

    Los Altos residents may receive the same on-line energy use analysis for a $50 fee. Both programs use software developed by Steve Schmidt’s High Energy Audits, a local software company that is working with Acterra, a local environmental non-profit that administers the grant for LAH from the California Energy Commission.

    — Debbie Mytels
    Associate Director, Acterra

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