OAKLAND -- Nate Dewart lives a block from Thornhill Elementary in a 1918 Craftsman. The house used to be drafty, the backroom was always too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, and the old gas floor heaters were expensive and inefficient.

Last year, Dewart took advantage of Energy Upgrade California's home energy improvement rebate, and got a full upgrade on his house. He bought a tankless water heater, a new floor furnace, and contractors sprayed foam insulation into the walls. He says his home is now 50 percent more energy efficient, and more comfortable to live in.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) and Stopwaste.org hope to share Dewart's story and others like it with homeowners across the state. On Nov. 17, the CCSE's Energy Upgrade California Roadshow came to Thornhill Elementary to promote California's home improvement rebate programs. The event also highlighted Energize for the Prize, an Alameda County pilot program that donates $250 for every local home upgrade to participating schools.

The roadshow, which began its California tour on Nov. 1, is a mobile, interactive, information center that hopes to educate homeowners on the benefits of an energy efficient home. The presentation is housed in a large trailer, and presents pictures, testimonials and facts about families that have participated in the upgrade and rebate programs.


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Organizers stress that the benefits of improving a home's efficiency are far more than financial or environmental, they can be very personal. Nicole Borunda, the outreach and volunteer coordinator of the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow, said that most people are initially interested in the rebates and how much money they will be able to save on energy bills. After the upgrades are complete, however, she said that people gush about the improved air quality and comfort of their houses.

"My parents actually had an upgrade, and all they talk about is how much more comfortable their home is," she said.

The roadshow has now traveled all across the state, and Borunda estimates that close to 25,000 people have walked through the trailer and seen the displays.

In addition to rebates, Alameda County residents can upgrade their homes and help local schools at the same time. Energize for the Prize donates $250 to participating schools when a homeowner upgrades his or her house; the donation can also be given to the school of his or her choice.

Edie Irons, senior program specialist at Stopwaste.org and organizer of the roadshow event, hopes that the incentives and the focus on schools will help reach out to communities and homeowners.

"When (people) hear about it at the schools and learn it benefits the school, we hope it will be easier to go forward (with the upgrades)," she said.

The Alameda program offers three different upgrade packages that qualify for rebates and incentives, a basic upgrade, an advanced upgrade and the new flex package pilot program. The basic upgrade requires homeowners to insulate and seal their homes, and comes with a $1,000 utility rebate from PG&E. The advanced package is customized to the individual home, and may include a variety of upgrades; the rebate ranges from $1,500 to $4,000. The flex package uses a point system and offers a $1,500 rebate.

FYI
Alameda County residents can upgrade their homes and help local schools at the same time. Energize for the Prize donates $250 to participating schools when a homeowner upgrades his or her house; the donation can also be given to the school of his or her choice.
Energize for the Prize runs through April 30, 2013, and a list of participating schools and school organizations can be found at https://energyupgradeca.org/county/alameda/cbsm_overview.