Recent extreme natural gas prices had a huge impact on Central Coast residents, with SoCalGas’ rates tripling from $1.05 per therm in December 2022 to $3.45 in January 2023.
Three energy agencies are offering opportunities to switch to cleaner, more sustainable sources for heating.
The Tri-County Regional Energy Network (3C-REN), Central Coast Community Energy, and TECH Clean California are offering incentives (which can be combined) for people to upgrade their natural gas furnace or water heaters to all-electric heat pumps, 3C-REN Program Manager April Price said.
“The California grid, by and large, is becoming much [cleaner] in its energy sources. It makes sense to transition our sources to electricity,” Price said.
All-electric heat pumps are about three times more efficient than their natural gas counterparts, they reduce a resident’s carbon emissions, and increase safety by removing natural gas combustion from the home, she said.
“I think a lot of Central Coast residents have heating systems and are considering whether or not they want air conditioning in their home[s]. [By] putting a heat pump system in your home, you are getting two in one,” Price said. “It’s a cost-effective way to make your home more comfortable. From a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint, it’s a great step to reducing your emissions while keeping your home comfortable.”
While most people will still need natural gas for kitchen appliances and water heaters, they would still be using less natural gas every day by relying on electricity to heat their homes, she said. Although people’s electric usage will increase, companies are offering special rates for customers when they make the change to account for the increased usage.
“The thing to stress is because it’s so much more efficient, my understanding is people aren’t seeing the linear increase in their electricity bills that they would have otherwise expected,” she said.
Furnace replacement costs can range between $12,000 to $25,000, depending on the project and the type of furnace; however, with a 30 percent federal tax credit (capped at $2,000) and the combined local incentives, customers can expect $6,000 to $14,000 off the total cost of a heat pump project, Price said.
“In some cases, you’re looking at half off, and in some cases you’re looking at the coverage of the entire project,” she said.
The discounts offered through the 3C-REN incentive are around $3,000, but there’s variation depending on the type of equipment a homeowner replaces, Price said. There are also opportunities to access higher savings if residents are of lower income status, if they use Pacific Gas and Electric’s low-income rates, or if English is not the primary language spoken at home.
Central Coast Community Energy offers a program called Electrify Your Home that brings costs down by $3,500, and TECH customers can access its Clean California heat pump water heater incentives that bring the cost down by $3,100.
“The gist here is that all of these incentives can, for some people, result in a very low-cost or sometimes even a free pump, and if you are a customer that needs to replace your furnace or gas heater, it’s a unique time in accessing this much more efficient technology,” Price said.
• The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department invites community members to sign up for the new Adult Pickleball League held at the Hagerman Sports Complex Courts, 3300 Skyway Drive, which begins on April 3. The recreational league invites novice and experienced players ages 18 and up. The season includes 10 matches, plus playoffs. Doubles divisions are available for men’s, women’s, and mixed teams. A free agents list is also available for individuals who don’t have a doubles partner or are new to the area. The registration fee is $81 for a city resident team or $106 for a non-city resident team. League play takes place Monday through Wednesday starting at 5:30 p.m. Participants can register online at cityofsantamaria.org/register, or in person at the Recreation and Parks Department administrative office, 615 South McClelland St. Register by March 16. Call the Recreation and Parks Department at (805) 925-0951, Ext. 2260, for more info.
Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor wrote this week’s Spotlight. Reach her at [email protected].