During a in Hermosa Beach, builder Fred Koch moved through the narrow hallways of a 30th Street home with a trail of curious homeowners shuffling closely behind.
Koch opened doors, turned on the furnace to full blast, poked instruments into the home’s ductwork, and took readings with an infrared camera.
Despite the poking and prodding, Fred Koch wasn’t an unwanted guest—nor were the about 50 people in attendance. Koch was there to save energy, and in the process, save his audience of homeowners some money.
As part of a program known as Energy Upgrade California, Hermosa Beach and the South Bay Environmental Services Center held an energy upgrade block party Thursday evening, which included live demonstrations on how to make a home more energy efficient.
The event was an opportunity for homeowners to look into upgrades for their homes and in the process, get money back for the improvements, said Grace Farwell-Granger, an environmental services analyst with the South Bay Environmental Services Center.
Under the Energy Upgrade California program, qualifying energy-saving improvements to a home are eligible for rebates and incentives of up to $8,000 based on the percentage increase in the home’s energy efficiency. Funding for the rebates comes from utility companies, such as SoCal Edison, and is matched by Los Angeles County.
Additionally, Hermosa Beach plans to refund up to 50 percent of building permit fees for residents completing an energy-saving project.
Farwell-Granger said that, on average, homeowners under the program have increased their home’s energy efficiency by about 30 percent, resulting in a rebate of about $6,000.
"The bottom line is this program is a way for homeowners to do some energy upgrades to their home and get some money back," Farwell-Granger said.
The first step to completing an energy upgrade and qualifying for the cash-back incentives is completing an "energy audit," which was demonstrated at the block party Thursday.
The goal of the audit is to both identify sources of energy leaks as well as indentify unsafe use of combustion appliances, such as a furnace or hot water heater.
"I want to make sure those things perform properly and efficiently," said Fred Koch, the Principal at Koch Development and the only developer approved for the Energy Upgrade California program in the South Bay area.
One demonstration performed by Koch involved completely sealing a house, pressurizing it, and then using smoke to detect where air—and energy—was escaping from the home.
From these types of tests, Koch was able to assess which parts of the home need improvement and then direct homeowners on replacing windows, adding new insulation, or upgrading a furnace.
Once upgrades to a house are complete, a second energy assessment is needed and a percentage is calculated based on how improved the home has become in saving energy. That percentage then determines the rebate amount.
Hermosa Beach City Councilman Michael DiVirgilio said that this rebate program is one more step toward the city's goal of reducing its carbon footprint, which is a "gigantic and long-term goal," he said.
"Over the long term, this is a very preliminary way of getting energy use in homes reduced," DiVirgilio said. "We have been trying to find ways that are digestible, not threatening, and maybe even inspiring to residents to sort of introduce and educate them about energy conservation."
Hermosa residents interested in upgrading their homes to improve energy efficiency and qualify for rebates can visit the Energy Upgrade website to learn more about the program and find a certified contractor.
Have you considered improving your home's energy efficiency?