Listen up, Southern California homeowners: Upgrading one or more of your systems in your home could lead to energy rebates. These rebate programs are geared toward one important goal: rewarding those who invest in energy-saving, carbon-footprint-reducing home systems and equipment. Understanding how these energy rebates work will pave the way for locking in the maximum rebate amounts and saving money on the front end. Here are some of the things that you and other SoCal homeowners need to know before moving forward.
A Rebate Primer
Rebates offer some compensation for your investment, and a popular approach is to provide an instant cash-back rebate at the time of purchase. This option gives you direct cash that you can put back into your savings account. You could also receive an instant discount, which deducts a set amount from the total purchase price. While you don’t receive actual cash with this method, you still save money on the front end. Depending on the type of equipment involved and how the rebate is calculated, the savings can be significant.
Tax credits are also considered energy rebates. Where applicable, you can apply for local, state and federal credits when preparing your annual tax returns. Rest assured you won’t lose the credits if you don’t owe any tax for the current filing year; your credits can simply be rolled over to the following year. If you owe taxes, you can use those credits to reduce the amount you owe. Getting a tax refund check? Your refund amount might be higher thanks to those tax credits.
Are Rebates Automatic?
In some cases, you won’t automatically receive a rebate even if the product purchased is eligible for one. You will need to apply for the rebate, which essentially means filling out a form and submitting it to the proper authority. Don’t worry, it’s not as time-consuming as you might think. In fact, many rebate forms can be applied for and submitted electronically.
Several rebates are awarded automatically, and other rebates could be received in one to two months. Rather than receiving a check in the mail, you could receive a cash rebate in the form of an electronic funds deposit in your bank account. The latter is in line with the spirit of reducing carbon imprints and promoting a greener lifestyle.
What Types of Rebates Are Out There?
Heating and Cooling System Rebates
Look for replacement systems (new heat pump, air conditioner or a combination unit) that have a favorable Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. You should always focus the search on systems with a higher SEER rating. A better rating translates into a more lucrative rebate.
A backyard pool pump that uses minimal energy will also qualify for a rebate. The right choice will use next to no energy during the warmer parts of the year, which helps reduce demand on the local power grid and minimize energy consumption. Check the ratings and go with one that is designed to use as little energy as possible and still get the job done.
When considering weatherization strategies, you’ll want to focus on ways to make the house tighter and make it easier to control the indoor climate. Consider replacing older windows and outer doors with materials that create tighter seals. New roofing and roof treatments can also help heat and cool the interior with less energy, while an attic fan that runs on solar energy would help pull hot air out of the home and cool the space more efficiently. Even replacing an older duct system would qualify for this type of rebate, assuming the ratings of the new components meet the criteria.
Solar Panel Systems and Battery Storage Banks
The upfront cost of installing a residential solar array is at its most affordable, even though the amount can still be significant. The good news is that some utility companies will help shoulder part of the cost in the form of a rebate. Depending on the specifications, your rebate could be as much as half of the price for purchase and installation. Utility companies are willing to do this because the systems can help eliminate the need for rolling blackouts during peak usage periods.
Water Heater Rebates
Choosing to go tankless with a new water heater is a great way to save energy; you could even qualify for a rebate because the lack of a tank eliminates the need to periodically preheat water. The only time any energy is expended is when the unit activates to heat the water when someone takes a shower, washes clothes or does something else that requires hot water. A heater with an excellent SEER rating will qualify for a rebate as well as cut your energy consumption by a significant margin.
Washer and Dryer Sets
Older washers and dryers consume quite a bit of energy, and larger families often experience higher costs due to copious loads of laundry each week. Choosing to invest in new models with superior energy ratings could mean receiving a rebate on each appliance. As with the water heater, the reduced energy consumption also means less stress on the power grid and lower utility costs.
Rebates for Older Refrigerators and Freezers
When it’s time to replace the refrigerator and freezer, you can make a little money by working with a company that will pick up the appliances and provide a cash rebate. Check with different sellers to determine which will offer a rebate and remove the older units when they deliver and set up the new ones.
Cash for Grass
Southern California isn’t known for excess rains, which means that in such a semi-arid climate, natural lawns aren’t all that natural after all. Lawns therefore require watering from a hose or other irrigation system. Some utility companies will provide a rebate if you replace your live grass with artificial turf, as long as the new product meets the quality standards cited in the rebate application. The result could be a couple thousand dollars in savings that help offset the turf purchase; the other benefits are lower water consumption and reduced utility expenses.
Updating the Landscape With Trees
Programs like the Shade Tree Rebate Program encourage homeowners to plant trees that will eventually provide a great deal of shade. At certain times of the day, the shade provided by those trees will reduce the heat generated by sunlight coming through windows and roofing materials. Remember that only certain tree species qualify, and your total rebate cannot exceed the investment made in each tree. In other words, the rebate amount won’t exceed the cost of purchase, delivery, installation and other essential expenses.
Which Companies and Institutions Offer Rebates?
No matter where you live in Southern California, you should have access to some type of energy rebate. Keep in mind, though, that rebates typically have thresholds or other requirements you must meet to be approved. Check with your utility company and municipal government to see the exact rebates offered. You might also find applicable options from the federal government.
Southern California Edison
If you’re an SCE customer, you’ll find many rebates that help you save money.
Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade Program
Evaporative Cooler Rebate
Smart Thermostat Rebate
Variable Speed Pool Pump & Motor Rebate
Hybrid Electric Heat Pump Water Heater Rebate
San Diego Gas & Electric
As an SDG&E customer, you could be qualified for rebates for energy-efficient clothes washing machines, electric water heaters, gas water heaters, home insulation and variable speed pool pumps. You’ll also receive a no-cost kit that includes a kitchen faucet aerator, two bathroom faucet aerators and an LED sensor night light.
If your appliances run on gas instead of electricity, you’ll find plenty of rebates as a SoCalGas customer. Some rebates include the following:
Smart Thermostat Rebate
Tankless Water Heater Rebate
Water Heater Rebate
Cold Water Clothes Washer Rebate
Attic or Wall Insulation
Natural Gas Dryer
Energy Upgrade California® Home Upgrade Program
California Solar Institute (CSI) Solar Water Heating Thermal Program
Municipal rebates are generally less extensive, but some cities have a strong energy focus that offers residents significant benefits. For example, Riverside has a Refrigerator Recycling Program, Shade Tree Rebate Program, Residential Air Conditioning Rebate Program, Weatherization Rebate and more.
Colton has a Residential Tree Rebate Program, a Weatherization Rebate Program and a Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program that applies to home appliances like dishwashers, solar attic fans, occupancy sensors, evaporative coolers and more.
Federal rebates are typically available as tax credits on your income tax returns. You can also check the Department of Energy‘s website for additional rebates and incentives.
Reducing energy consumption does not mean going back to basics. It means respecting the environment and its natural resources, making smarter choices and taking advantage of available energy rebates. When something at home needs replacement, always go with the option that provides a rebate and is kinder to the environment. Doing so ensures that everybody wins.