Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 24
Home, 'green' homeemPowerSBC helps local residents make their houses more energy-efficient
BY AMY ASMAN
The Rosenthals’ home off of Highway 246 in Solvang provides a cool oasis from the 100-degree weather. The white, single-story ranch house is neat and comfortable, with shiny wood floors and large double-paned windows that overlook a wraparound patio, a grassy lawn, and horse corrals.
It’s David and Kathleen Rosenthal’s dream house—but it didn’t start that way. When they first toured the foreclosed property with a real estate agent, the house was missing floors and a kitchen. It had been a rental and the owner ran out of money while trying to remodel it.
“But I loved the property; it was flat and usable,” Kathleen said. “I could see the potential in it right away.”
An avid horse lover, Kathleen always wanted to keep her animals on her own property. The house in Solvang, with its acre of land, could make that dream a reality.
The agent made some improvements to make the house livable, and the Rosenthals decided to buy it. However, there were still some changes that needed to be made: “We needed to upgrade the furnace and replace the water heater,” Kathleen said, adding that they also wanted to get better insulation and replace the aluminum, single-pane windows.
“They were put in in the ’60s. They were so big and shaky,” she said. “They were dangerous. When we first looked at the house, a quail flew into one of the windows and shattered it. It was like the sign, ‘You’d better get that done.’”
In April 2012, Kathleen attended a barbecue put on by emPower Santa Barbara County. Started in 2009, emPowerSBC helps homeowners countywide make energy-saving improvements to their homes. A partnership among the county and local contractors and credit unions, emPowerSBC makes these “green” upgrades more affordable and easier to execute.
“It turned out [the program offered] everything I wanted to do to make the house efficient, air-tight, and comfortable,” Kathleen said.
According to emPowerSBC Program Manager Angie Hacker, approximately 80 percent of the homes in Santa Barbara County were built before 1990.
“Many homes were built in the ’20s, ’40s, ’60s, and ’70s before Title 24 [the California Energy Code], so there’s no insulation and the furnaces are old,” Hacker said. “The houses are uncomfortable and inefficient, and the residents usually pay higher utility bills.”
Using grants from the federal government and additional funding from utility ratepayers, the program offers homeowners loans with low rates through CoastHills Federal Credit Union, as well as residential rebates and cash incentives.
People sign up for walk-through energy audits of their homes; an auditor evaluates each home’s efficiency and writes improvement proposals. The homeowner chooses what he or she wants changed, and then picks a local contractor who is certified by emPowerSBC. The program currently has 22 certified contractors.
“Our contractors really have a good understanding of home performance and efficiency,” Hacker said. “Often people can feel uncomfortable picking a contractor, but all of ours are uniquely qualified and specially trained to the subject.”
The Rosenthals worked with Santa Maria-based Halsell Builders, which replaced the water heater, furnace, and windows. They also sealed and insulated the house, and added a “ladybug” valve to the shower to conserve water.
“They were so professional,” Kathleen said of the contracting company. “To this day, if I have a problem I can call they up and they’ll come take care of it.”
The upgrades carried a price tag of about $25,000, but the Rosenthals also got $4,000 back in rebates because the changes drastically improved the efficiency of their home.
“My utilities are amazing,” Kathleen said. “And not only is it good for you—it helps you save money—but it’s good for the environment as well.”
Contact Managing Editor Amy Asman at email@example.com.