A Santa Barbara couple has raised the bar in home energy efficiency after they partnered with county and state incentive programs. Jordan and Jessica Sager bought their first home a few years ago on the city’s lower Westside. Their snug home was outdated and in need of upgrades. The ceiling and floors were poorly insulated, which allowed precious air conditioning to escape. The water heater leaked small amounts of carbon monoxide into their home, and its vent was an eyesore. The Sagers sought assistance. Santa Barbara County’s emPower program and Energy Upgrade California answered the call and offered their help across the board. The programs’ incentives include ease of installation, rebates, and expert advice. The emPower program started in Santa Barbara and has grown to cover Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Most homeowners are eligible for its programs, which offer rebates up $6,500.
The first step the Sagers took was to partner with Allen Energy and conduct a “whole-house” energy assessment. The assessment identifies inefficiencies in home energy use, using instruments like a blower door that tests how airtight a building is. After the assessment, they decided air sealing, quality insulation, and a new hybrid electric water heat pump were the best upgrades to invest in. The Sagers also installed a solar electric system as an added measure and to offset the high cost of an electric water heater. The Sagers applauded the ease of the program that Allen Energy had completely prepared for them. They were only required to sign their names and apply for a loan, which they financed through a partnered bank at 3.9 percent. An optimal energy design is not found in individual appliances, however, according to Jessica, who said that “pairing up of generations” of power allows for each upgrade to perform in synergy with the others. After all, decreased cost in heating and electric would still be expensive if the home was not properly insulated. Jordan is able to monitor the electrical output of his solar system through an iPad app, and the Sagers are only required to conduct upkeep in order to keep the system running.
The Sagers are not alone as they prepare for the future of energy. The price of finite fuel supplies are expected to be a dominant factor in future building designs and will likely shape future construction regulations. Energy costs as of 2008 are forecast to soar as high as 6.3 percent by 2020, according to a UC Davis study; SoCal Gas customers saw a 6.7 percent rise in gas cost this June. The raising costs have also caused many homeowners to reconsider the infrastructure inside their homes, and now, many manufacturers advertise their appliances with an “EnergyGuide” sticker. Although the Sagers were attracted to the monetary benefits of an upgrade, it wasn’t what drove them to take action. Their drive stemmed from their desire to “walk the walk” in sustainable living and reduce their overall carbon footprint.
Jordan could have probably tallied up his home inefficiencies himself. He is the Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED) Program and Energy manager at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he oversees and helps direct the campus’s sustainable living initiative. LEED provides more stringent building codes than the law and is a leader in sustainable energy design. Now, with his own home meeting the same type of standards, many people say Jordan “took his work home with him.” But even with Jordan’s wealth of knowledge and experience, the Sagers still partnered with the government’s incentive programs. It is not difficult to imagine why. They provided the contract, the package of materials, a partnered creditor, and thousands of dollars in rebates. According to the Sagers, anyone who purchases a home should simply consider the upgrades as part of their purchase. Not only does it help save our environment, it helps save money too.