Lodi launches energy-efficiency program for low-income homeowners

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

Lodi is offering up to $2,000 to low-income homeowners whose houses could benefit from energy-efficient changes.

The Lodi City Council approved the pilot program last week. It is the first of its kind, and creators hope it will help more homeowners use less electricity.

"This harkens back to something the Department of Energy has been talking about for several years – refurbishing the existing residential stock. There's a need to address buildings that are currently standing and have been standing for a long time," said Rob Lechner, programs manager for Lodi Electric Utility.

The city is working with Turlock-based American Insulation to run the program, audit homes and provide repair plans to residents. The company has provided similar services to residents in Modesto, Sacramento and Turlock.

There is $200,000 available, which will cover at least 100 homes and could stretch as far as 250 homes.

The money comes from the Lodi Public Benefits Program, which has approved $1 million worth of projects this year.

During the first phase, only low-income homeowners are eligible. Potential candidates must already be among the 1,850 people who qualify for the discounted electricity rate determined by the San Joaquin County Department of Health and Human Services. If enough money is left over for a second phase, the pilot program will be open to those in rental homes or duplexes.

Where possible, American Insulation will use Lodi vendors for materials and services.

Improvements will include attic insulation, weather-stripping, caulking, pipe insulation, utility gaskets, air-conditioning replacement, installation of hard-wired compact fluorescents, room lighting occupancy sensors, window glass replacement, water-heater blanket installation and low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads.

"Until they get in there, they won't have a clue as to what the home will need," Lechner said. "But this is also a way to educate people on how to use energy more wisely."

Because American Insulation is working with Lodi Electric Utility, the $2,000 allotment will go only toward electricity-based improvements. But once the auditor gets inside a home, they may notice gas-related improvements that could qualify for rebates directly from Pacific Gas and Electric.

For example, the money from the pilot program could go to replace attic insulation, while a rebate from PG&E might help pay for a cover on a gas-powered water heater.

The homeowner will have the final say on which improvements, if any, are completed.

Residents who qualify will be contacted by mail by Lodi Electric Utility beginning Sept. 16.

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Read more articles by Sara Jane Pohlman

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