Reusing an old building generally has less of an impact on the environment than tearing it down, removing the debris, clearing the site, crafting new materials and building a new structure. This makes basic sense, even without evaluating the numbers. But aren’t new buildings more energy-efficient than their older counterparts?
In 2012, Preservation Green Lab, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s sustainability think tank, took a look at the numbers and found that the greenest buildings aren’t in fact state-of-the-art new construction; they’re the buildings we already have.
The study found that retrofitting an existing building to make it 30 percent more efficient is generally better for the environment than a new building with the same efficiencies. Moreover, the study also found that it could take up to 80 years for the new building to make up for the environmental impact of its initial construction. These numbers apply whether the building is residential, commercial or industrial.
So, why does this matter to Stockton, and what can we do about it?
In short, about seven years ago, the City of Stockton was sued by the Sierra Club over its 2035 General Plan and its impact on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Then-Attorney General Jerry Brown threatened to join the suit as well. As a result, the city reached a settlement agreement requiring the creation of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in accordance with Assembly Bill 32, thereby reducing GHGs through the plan’s implementation measures. The draft CAP was released in February.
One of the primary sources of emissions in Stockton identified by the CAP is energy use of existing buildings. Buildings are the second largest source of pollution, accounting for 33% of total community emissions.
In order to meet the GHG reduction targets identified in the CAP, the plan relies heavily on the community to implement its recommendations, including retrofitting existing buildings. Specifically, retrofits of existing residential buildings make up the largest percentage of proposed GHG reductions, followed by solar panels on both residential and commercial buildings, and then retrofits to commercial buildings.
Retrofitting of an existing building, including your home, doesn’t just benefit our community’s GHG reduction goals, but it also benefits your pocket book! Even better, applying sustainable features adds value to your home, giving it an edge if you ever choose to sell it.
But retrofitting can be expensive, meaning many people won’t ever consider solar panels, double pained windows or insulation. Luckily, the city, county, state and federal governments have a plethora of programs and incentives to help ease the financial burden on homeowners.
Where do we find these fantastic incentives? We’ve done the research for you! Below is a comprehensive list of energy efficiency programs and incentives available to help make your home greener and save you money in the long run. If we’ve missed any, please share in the comments section.
California Solar Initiative for PG&E Customers
This program encourages high-performing solar systems. Incentives differ depending on the type of property and size of the system. The deadline has passed for this year, so keep an eye out for next year’s program.
Rebates for High-efficiency toilets, clothes washers and irrigation controls.
City of Stockton PACE Program
Program for property owners to get no money down, long term, low interest financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects. PACE financing payments are amortized for up to 20 years via assessments on the owner’s property tax bills. Projects funded with PACE can run from $5,000 up to 20% of a property’s assessed value. If an improved property is sold, the financed assessment can be transferred to a new owner so benefits stay with the current property owner. This program is available for nearly all owners of commercial and multi-family properties including industrial, offices, hotels, retail centers, and more.
Clean Green Yard Machines
The San Joaquin Valley Air District is currently accepting applications for its Clean Green Yard Machines (CGYM) Rebate Program which provides incentives for Valley residents to replace their old gas lawn mowers with nonpolluting electric lawn mowers.
Federal Tax Credits for consumer energy efficiency
Tax credits for everything from window upgrades to roof top solar panels.
Green mortgages save on energy, loan costs
Energy-efficient mortgages let you qualify for bigger loans than you would otherwise by folding in the additional cost of making improvements for energy efficiency. Because mortgage interest payments are tax-deductible, an energy-efficient mortgage can be a more cost-effective way to finance home-energy improvements than using a credit card, bank loan or cash, which usually offer no tax benefits.
LED Replacement Bulbs
Save up to 77% annual on lighting by replacing your incandescent bulbs with LEDs.
Low Income Department of Energy, Weatherization Assistance Program
Administered by San Joaquin County, the Weatherization Program provides energy saving measures and repairs to homes and mobile homes. These dwellings qualify for weatherization measures if someone in the household receives Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamps, SSI or SSP, Veterans and Survivors Pension or if the household income does not exceed a certain amount determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some of the energy savings measures available are glass replacement, sash repair, ceiling insulation, minor home repair, low-flow shower heads, door weather stripping, water heater blanket, duct wrap, switch and outlet gaskets, caulking, refrigerators, microwave ovens and much more.
PG&E Appliance Rebate
$75 rebate for replacing your old refrigerator, and $50 for recycling the old unit. $75 rebate for purchasing a High-Efficiency Clothes Washer. Other incentives available for pool pumps and water heaters
PG&E Home Upgrades
Up to $2,500 for installing 3 or more upgrades from a flexible menu of options—such as high-efficiency water heaters and insulation– that will earn you points towards incentives and rebates. Or, up to $4,500 for a full home upgrade for a 45% increase in efficiency.
PG&E Net Energy Metering
Net metering for solar or solar water heating systems. Special rates also available for owners of Plug-in Electric Vehicles.
PG&E Solar Water Heater Rebates
PG&E is offering cash rebates of up to $2,719, granted in the form of a one-time payment. The amount is determined by how much energy the system is expected to displace annually. For solar water heating systems installed on single-family homes, the average incentive is approximately $2,000.
Replacement of Wood or Pellet Stoves
The San Joaquin Valley Air District is currently accepting applications for its Burn Cleaner Program which provides incentives to Valley residents to replace their old wood or pellet burning devices with new, cleaner hearth options such as a natural gas insert or an EPA Phase II certified wood insert. The purpose of the program is to help reduce particulate matter produced from older devices in the Valley which contribute to air pollution during the Fall and Winter months.
Saving Windows Saving Money
Retrofitting windows with high performance enhancements can result in substantial energy savings across a variety of climate zones. Selecting options that retain and retrofit existing windows are the most cost effective way to achieve these energy savings and to lower a home’s carbon footprint. Retrofits extend the life of existing windows, avoid production of new materials, reduce waste and preserve a home’s character.