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CEC is committed to creating a more resilient and just region in the face of climate change. Through our work with the Central Coast Climate Justice Network and elsewhere, our vision includes an end to racial injustices and their resulting environmental inequities.

Last year, the Rodriguez family purchased its first home. As with many houses in Santa Barbara County, it was not newly built. The Rodriguez’s knew the home had some problems and could use a few upgrades. As winter loomed, they found themselves uncomfortably cold at night, but weren’t sure how to make their home more comfortable – or how they could afford to fix the problems.

While searching for incentive programs to offset the cost of replacing the furnace, they came across the emPowerSBC financing program, which was recently launched by the County of Santa Barbara in partnership with Coast Hills Federal Credit Union and Ventura County Credit Union. The program combines low-cost, local financing with high dollar utility rebates to help upgrade the efficiency and comfort of homes. The emPowerSBC website included contact information for a number of participating contractors, and the Rodriguez family decided to meet with one of them.

Halsell Builders conducted a thorough inspection of the house and an energy assessment to evaluate how the house was performing — observing that the home was leaking air and energy like a sieve. The house also had very poor indoor air quality; the furnace had been red-tagged by Southern California Gas, which meant that it was unsafe to operate. The house also had old asbestos ducts, which was problematic because ducts carry conditioned air throughout the entire home.

After the contractor provided a detailed report on the issues identified by the home assessment, the family decided to take advantage of the financing offered by the emPowerSBC program. They submitted a loan application, were quickly approved, and the contractor was ready to get started. Halsell Builders began work immediately, replacing the old, inefficient furnace with a new high performance furnace that maximizes 95% of the energy it consumes. The contractor also sealed up air leakages in the home, coordinated asbestos abatement, blew in cellulose insulation and installed high efficacy exterior lighting fixtures.

Once upgrades were completed, the Rodriguez family found their energy use was cut by 56%. Not only did their energy bills drop, but the main issue in the house — home comfort — had been remedied. The Rodriguez family was no longer huddling under blankets at night. Happy and healthy, the family was finally home.

Upgrade your home

The Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival is coming up on April 21 and 22 in Alameda Park. This event is the perfect opportunity to learn how to make changes like this in your own home. We recommend the following stops at the festival:

  • Visit the “Live Green” zone and watch live demos on the “Live Green” Stage to discover ways to make your own changes. View the schedule.
    • Home Upgrades Made Affordable on Saturday, April 21, 12:30pm
    • Is Your Home High Performance? on Saturday, April 21, 1:30pm
    • California Solar Initiative: Rebates for Going Solar on Saturday, April 21, 4:30pm
    • Laundry to Landscape on Sunday, April 22, 1:30pm
    • Is Your Home Leaking Air and Money? on Sunday, April 22, 2:30pm
    • Home Insulation for Comfort Sunday, April 22, 3:30pm
    • Home Nightmares on Saturday April 21, 2:30pm and Sunday April 22, 4:30pm
  • Visit the emPowerSBC booth to learn about rebates and financing for making home upgrades.
  • Visit California Solar Initiative booth to learn about rebates for going solar in your own home.

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