By Leslie Crenna
Homeowners seeking a more comfortable home environment need search no longer. Through a new partnership between the Davis Energy Group and Cool Davis, dubbed Retrofit Your Attic, two contractors are offering Davis homeowners price breaks on home energy assessments and attic retrofit measures through Dec. 1.
Homeowners can schedule a $99 home energy assessment to evaluate their home for leakage and to estimate eligibility for state rebates. The assessment includes a blower door test to measure leakage and tests on the duct blaster, HVAC system, flow hood and combustion appliance zone, plus infrared photography.
Sealing attic penetrations as well as heating and cooling system ducts and adding attic insulation may be recommended first steps.
According to Pepper Smith, director of residential programs for Davis Energy Group and co-manager of the project, Green Home Solutions and Brower Mechanical’s BPI certified technicians can complete the retrofit at a cost of $2,500 to $4,000 after rebates.
The Energy Upgrade California rebate for this recommended package of improvements, including sealing, is $1,000 but can range up to $4,500 depending on “predicted energy savings” (energyupgradeca.org).
Stephanie Rodriguez, who manages sales, administration and construction staff for Green Home Solutions, strives “to ensure that all homeowners are taken care of from start to finish,” from facilitating low-interest financing to taking care of rebates, tax credits and financing paperwork. Green Home Solutions will waive the assessment fee for homeowners who purchase attic retrofit measures.
“Attic insulation is a thermal barrier that keeps a home cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” Rodriguez said. “Without proper levels of attic insulation, the home either will experience high utility bills or be uncomfortable, and usually both.”
Davis Energy Group initiated the retrofit project effort as part of a U.S. Department of Energy Building America grant. Smith and Mark Berman, president of Davis Energy Group, are co-managing the project whose main purpose is to gather and analyze household-level data on the effect of attic retrofit measures.
Chrissy Backman, a mechanical engineer who consults with DEG, is leading the Retrofit Your Attic effort in her own Birch Lane neighborhood.
“I am trying good old neighbor-to-neighbor outreach,” Backman said, “In a single-story home, the attic can have the most significant heat transfer potential. Properly insulating it is guaranteed to make your home more comfortable.”
Backman models energy efficiency for buildings in her work with DEG and is the originator of the action-based project moniker.
Cool Davis will assist with community outreach, including targeting older homes and neighborhoods most likely to benefit from attic retrofits. Executive Director Chris Granger notes, “According to the Cool Climate Network, a typical Davis household could save 2,900 to 3,400 pounds of CO2 equivalent per year by taking these (retrofit) actions.
“For homeowners with ailing HVAC equipment or those considering solar (photovoltaic) systems,” Granger advises, “attic retrofit measures should always be completed (first) so the energy footprint of the household is the lowest it can be. … Solar PV and HVAC systems are expensive. A homeowner should … maximize their household efficiency first.”
Backman agrees: “Energy efficiency should come first to minimize the amount of PV needed for a home.”
Rodriguez has a striking phrase to characterize the situation: “Putting solar on a home that lacks energy efficiency and comfort is like putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. … Once (energy efficiency measures are taken), the homeowner can usually purchase a smaller photovoltaic system.”
Duane Knickerbocker, vice president of Brower Mechanical, added, “(Retrofitting your) attic is usually the most cost-effective energy upgrade a residential customer can (do) to their home.” He encourages customers with a catchy motto: “Reduce Before You Produce.”
“Buyers appreciate a home that is well-insulated and energy-efficient,” confirmed local real estate agent Kim Merrell Lamb. “A more comfortable home and lower utility bills absolutely add resale value to a home.”
Even if now is not the right time for making home improvements, Granger hopes households will have a home assessment completed, so they can make a plan for becoming more energy-efficient in the near future.
Both contractors will have staff on hand at the Cool Davis Festival on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Central Park to answer questions and schedule assessments. Homeowners who register interest at the festival will be entered into a drawing for a free home energy assessment. Or visit www.cooldavis.org for contact information.
What: Cool Davis Festival, featuring more home energy-efficiency ideas and experts, interactive exhibits and information on how to reduce your carbon footprint
When: 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12
Where: Central Park, Fourth and C streets
Getting there: Ride your bike, walk or take the bus; Unitrans if offering free rides all day
Info or to volunteer: www.cooldavis.org