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Energy upgrades available through HERO program

LOS ANGELES — Property owners can make energy upgrades to their homes and then repay for the improvements over time through their property tax bill through the Home Energy Renovation Program (HERO).

The HERO program is a property-assessed clean energy program that works with 427 different communities throughout the state, including most cities in Los Angeles County.

“One thing that is really great about the program is once the project is completed the customer signs off on completion certificate, verifying the contractor finished the project to their satisfaction and then we fund the contractor,” said Kelly Sandoval, a HERO representative.

“Homeowners can get the added assurance of knowing they’re going to get the job done right and be happy with the final product.”

Among the projects offered through the HERO program are heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, insulation, energy-efficient windows and doors, water-saving improvements and renewable energy systems. There are 60 different product types and they are all certified to meet state and federal efficiency standards.

Karina Garcia, a Downey resident, got her home upgraded last month because of the program.

Before she knew about HERO, her family had to control the temperature of the home with fans and space heaters. Only her daughter’s room had a window-mounted air-conditioner.

“Our house is really old, so we had a lot of problems with it,” Garcia said. “We finally got new insulation, brand new heating system and AC and solar panels.

“I was fascinated with the fast work and punctuality,” Garcia added. “It took about two weeks do get it all done.”

There are other ways to get energy upgrades then through HERO.

Culver City is one of the few cities in the county that isn’t participating in the HERO program as a government entity, although businesses and residents can participate.

The city just concluded an energy efficient project in five of its facilities, including City Hall, the police station, the Veteran Memorial Auditorium, the senior center and the transportation facility.

The upgrades included lighting retrofits and heating, ventilation and air conditioning mechanical changes, in addition to the installation of a brand new energy management system that is all networked.

Overall, the project cost about $1 million to complete, but through Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas the city got around  $141,000 in incentives and rebates.

The project will save $1.7 million in energy, but the city will get a net savings of $700,000 after the project’s 12-year life span.

“SCE and SCG provide us with on-bill financing,” said Joe Susca, senior management analyst for the Culver City Public Works Department. “They take the savings that you are making, let’s say your electricity bill was $10,000 a month, but after you implement all these energy efficiency programs it’s only $8,000 a month.”

“What they’ll do is take that $2,000 and apply it to the capital to pay off the loan you get from them,” Susca said.

For residents, Culver City partners with other private firms or public agencies that offer incentives or free introductions on energy-efficiency programs.

“We sponsor those sort of workshops on Saturdays or week nights, when people can show up, and they learn all about the programs on how to do lighting retrofits or putting solar on their roofs and available financing,” Susca said. “We try to put the two parties together.”

On Aug. 16, the West Hollywood City Council passed two initiatives related to energy upgrades.

One was the expansion of the PACE program so in addition to HERO, the city approved having several additional operators for the community.

Residents can chose depending on what kind of energy-efficiency upgrades they want to do in their home.

“Before the county was operating three programs, the HERO program, California First and a commercial PACE program,” said Robyn Eason, senior sustainability planner for the city of West Hollywood.

“With [the council’s] approval, we are allowing additional operators to allow for PACE financing within West Hollywood. It gives more options for West Hollywood community members who are interested in energy upgrades.”

The council also approved plans to proceed with the West Hollywood Solar Campaign, which will kick off early in the fall.

The city will provide an online marketplace and one-on-one technical assistant to local property owners interested in going solar.

Two other initiatives that West Hollywood is exploring are promoting electric vehicle readiness and more public outreach of existing energy efficiency programs.

Despite the programs and initiatives, consumers should still be aware of bad contractors.

Chris Perez, an L.A.-based contractor, works at American Vision Windows. The private company has been with HERO since 2012.

“Look for a contractor that’s reputable and has been in business for a long period of time,” he said. “Let’s say the contractor says he’s been in business for 20 years, but when you check their state license it says that it was issued two years ago. That’s a sign.”

For those interested in the HERO program, there are a couple different paths homeowners can take. They can work through a contractor and find one that is registered through HERO.

The other option is to go through their website or call center and they can assist the homeowner through the process.

For more information, visit heroprogram.com.

 

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