High heating bills prompt energy efficiency checks for homeowners

The high heating bills that come with winter's chill have sent some homeowners hunting for energy efficiency.

"It's been cold. People have been cranking up the heat," said Jim Apperson, owner of Apperson Energy Management, with offices in Mendocino and Sonoma counties.

When they find it costs too much to keep the house toasty, some seek a home energy evaluation.

Kimberly Melvin and her husband this year had their drafty Ukiah home evaluated and opted for a house retrofit, including insulation, double-paned windows, new furnace and air conditioning.

Apperson also made safety checks and found her oven was emitting unsafe amounts of carbon dioxide, a problem that was fixed with a new vent fan. The energy makeover cost the family about $23,000, but they recouped $5,500 in rebates and are saving money on their monthly energy bills.

"It was so well worth it. The money we're saving is incredible," Melvin said.

Last winter, her monthly heating bill was close to $220 a month. Her November bill this year was $120, she said.

"I keep it warm" because of the children, Melvin said. But now it stays warm enough for minimally clad children when the thermostat is set in the mid-60s.

The makeover was conducted utilizing a new program, Energy Upgrade California, a collaboration of counties, cities, non-profits and utility companies. Property owners can find out what energy-saving incentives are available in their area by going to www.energyupgradeca.org, and then entering their zip codes.

Homeowners have nothing to lose by having their homes evaluated because rebates cover their costs.

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