It's not easy being green in Rosemont.
A new program is helping local homeowners retrofit their homes and receive big rebates on their energy bills, but residents have been slow to participate.
Offered by SMUD, the Neighborhood Energy Program offers a limited number of rebates to residents who make their homes more energy friendly with upgrades like new heating and air systems, dual pane windows and better insulation.
The program was recently expanded to include La Riviera because SMUD officials couldn't find enough takers in Rosemont. So far, only 22 neighborhood homeowners have participated, even though retrofits would reduce energy usage by an average of 20 percent.
Christie Rodriquez, a SMUD project manager, said the utility is hoping more Rosemont residents opt into the program but realizes the sluggish economy may be keeping them away.
"Definitely it's a barrier to participation, because there are some out of pocket expenses associated to this," said Rodriquez. "We're trying to offset those barriers with significant rebates and creative financing."
Homeowners can earn rebates up to $9,000 if they make necessary retrofits through a SMUD-approved company called Brower Mechanical, a heating and air contractor based in Rocklin. Duane Knickerbocker, the company's vice president, said Rosemont was chosen for the program because the neighborhood is home to some of Sacramento's oldest tract homes.
"It's when we get to the tract homes that we have the opportunities to make a difference with not a lot of money," he said.
According to Knickerbocker, updating older homes with simple retrofits is a cost-effective way to reduce energy usage. Rosemont's Richard Conrad retrofitted his home earlier this year through SMUD's program. The upgrades, which he said cost roughly $24,000, included a new air conditioning and heating system, new windows, a more efficient water heater and new ductwork.
Conrad said he's received a combined rebate of around $5,400 from SMUD and Pacific Gas and Electric. "I think it's great," he said. "It really benefits homes that are 25 years old or older."
SMUD is funding the rebates with a $1 million grant from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Still, the utility can only afford discounts for 69 homeowners.
Rodriquez, who said the average rebate in Rosemont is about $2,400, said the program is also open to apartment complexes and businesses in the neighborhood.
The utility is offering rebates for 25 apartment units and roughly 150 businesses.