Spring may be on the way, but there are still plenty of reasons to make your home more energy efficient. Not only are HVAC and insulation contractors less busy in milder months, testing a new heating system when temperatures are no longer dropping below freezing is a perk. Additionally, weatherization and insulation projects don’t just keep homes warm in the winter, they can keep homes cooler in the summer as well.
In Whatcom County, Cascade Natural Gas (CNG) and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) offer rebates for new appliances and equipment like heat pumps, tankless water heaters, high efficiency furnaces and programmable thermostats, as well as for a variety of insulation and weatherization projects.
CNG customers can get rebates up to $1 per square foot for attic insulation and $5 per square foot for new energy efficient windows and PSE customers can get $500 for replacing an old water heater with a heat pump water heater, for example.
Residents of Blaine are on the city’s electrical system and are not eligible for PSE’s rebates, but can still get rebates from CNG if they are customers. Both companies detail their rebates online. Learn more at pse.com/rebates and cngc.com/energy-efficiency/residential-rebate-offerings.
“The idea behind the program is to remove some of that cost barrier [for efficiency upgrades],” said Monica Cowlishaw, manager of energy efficiency and community outreach at Cascade Natural Gas. “It’s going to be more expensive up front, but it is going to pay off in long run, and the rebate will help with the initial cost.”
For both companies, getting rebates requires an application. Pay attention to the specifics – an attic-insulating project is only eligible for a rebate if the current insulation value is below R-19, for example. For certain projects, rebates are only offered if a preapproved “trade ally” contractor does the work.
Some contractors will apply for the rebate for you and subtract the cost of the rebate from the purchase and installation price, saving some hassle and ensuring that the project qualifies.
Both Cascade Natural Gas and Puget Sound Energy detail rebate requirements online and can help customers determine if they qualify over the phone. PSE’s web page for rebates has contact information for the company’s energy advisors.
The utility companies themselves fund the rebates. Utility companies are regulated by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which determines how much utility companies can charge. Utility companies’ profit margins are based on the number of customers served, rather than the amount of energy provided. The commission allows utility companies to recover the costs of their rebates from their utility rates. Incentivizing conservation allows the companies to meet demand for a growing region without building new power plants.
“If we can reduce the total gas required, it makes it easier for us to serve our customers,” Cowlishaw said.
While many people know about utility company rebates, Cowlishaw said people who don’t do their research before replacing an appliance can miss out. Often, replacing a water heater or other appliance is an emergency and people go with whatever is recommended by the first contractor that comes to their house.
“If you spend just a little time researching, you might have a few more questions to ask that contractor when they come,” she said. “Doing a little research ahead of time can make a big difference in what you end up with and how it works in the long run.”
While PSE and Cascade offer plenty of rebates for bigger projects, don’t neglect smaller, simple methods of conserving energy. Washing clothes with cold water and hanging to dry, turning down your water heater to 120 degrees and having furnaces serviced will all help lower your energy bill.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mixed up the examples of rebates offered by Cascade Natural Gas and Puget Sound Energy in third paragraph. We regret the error.