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Going Green: Expert Tips to Make Your NorCal Home More Eco-Friendly

 

Kevin Conway, climate activist, and Lindsey Samuelson, Realtor, share expert tips to make your Northern California home more eco-friendly.Go Green: Expert Tips to Make Your NorCal Home More Eco-Friendly

Shifting values and policies around climate change are transforming the real estate landscape in Sonoma County. 

Today, county, state, and federal governments are funding a variety of green initiatives, allowing homeowners to invest in eco-friendly upgrades to their homes. Buyers are also prioritizing energy efficiency, choosing homes that offer solar energy, electric appliances, and EV charging stations.  

To learn more about how you can make your home more climate-friendly—and how it increases home equity—we spoke with two local experts, climate activist Kevin Conway and Realtor® Lindsey Samuelsen.

Together, they share insights on how Sonoma County residents can use government tax credits and rebates to take important climate action and how investing in energy-efficient upgrades can increase your home equity and competitiveness in the market. 

SOMO Village: In your experience as a Realtor®, how do climate-friendly upgrades impact home resale value and sale timelines? 

Lindsey Samuelsen: I frequently see that homes with eco-friendly updates tend to sell more quickly and at a higher price than those without. 

Buyers today are looking for more energy efficiency, especially given today’s higher interest rates. Things like dual-pane windows and good insulation are more efficient and, therefore, save homeowners a lot of money.

Larger upgrades like solar power also have a huge impact on the energy efficiency of a home. It’s a desired feature today and can increase the equity in your home. 

A study from Zillow found that homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more than those that don’t have them. The data is a couple of years old, but I’d imagine it’s the same today if not more. 

What other trends or changes are you seeing in the market? 

Lindsey: The big shift is that all new construction homes are now required to have solar power built-in. They’re also not making homes with gas appliances anymore—all new builds will have electric stoves, heaters, and other appliances. 

There are big incentives available for people to buy new construction homes and others that help homeowners make eco-friendly upgrades to increase their equity and competitiveness in the market. 

Another value-added thing I’m noticing is that some homeowners are upgrading their houses by adding an electric vehicle charging station.

What are some energy-efficient upgrades homeowners can easily make? 

Kevin Conway: There are tons of things homeowners can do. The more expensive upgrade is installing solar panels and storage batteries. Doing this will help stabilize your energy bills and increase the property value of your home.  

Less expensive items that make a big impact are electrifying your appliances, including: 

  • A heat pump water heater
  • An induction stove
  • A heat pump Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system

Electrification of these key appliances not only improves energy efficiency but also lowers a home’s emissions and improves its indoor air quality.

As Lindsey mentioned, you can also upgrade your breaker box, get better insulation, install double-pane windows, and get a home energy audit done.  

The Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) offers a rebate ($200 currently) for getting an energy audit done. Doing that is a great starting point to help prioritize the projects you can make. You can also get a tax credit for having this done. 

Once an audit is done, you can get help setting up a game plan for electrifying your home. BayREN can direct you to the various resources for having a home energy audit done.   

What rebates are available to Sonoma County residents when it comes to eco-friendly home upgrades? 

Kevin: Tax credits and local and state rebates are available now. Three key organizations lay out what’s available to Sonoma County residents: 

  • Climate Action and Resiliency Division: This Sonoma County office is dedicated to helping the community address the climate crisis and achieve climate-related goals. They offer resources and information to individuals, businesses, and homeowners. You’ll also find information on rebates and financial incentives that are currently available.
  • BayREN: This is the Bay Area’s regional energy network; their Home+ program offers rebates and financial incentives to make your home more energy efficient. 
  • Sonoma Clean Power: This organization offers a variety of resources and programs to help bring clean energy to Sonoma County. They offer information on financial incentives or payment assistance to help with expenses. Sonoma Clean Power also has a store (the Advanced Energy Center) on 4th Street in Santa Rosa. Here people can get hands-on experience with products like HVAC systems, Induction stoves, Heat Pump Water Heaters, etc.

Besides these rebate and incentive programs that are currently available, there will eventually be point-of-sale and energy-saving rebates will be available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). When these become available, there will be two types of rebates: 

  • Point-of-sale rebates, or High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA), will involve getting money off the sticker price when you buy specific appliances or energy-efficient items. No application is required here if your purchase meets the eligibility criteria.
  • Rebates tied to how much energy you save, or Home Efficiency Rebates (HOMES). This is a complex program and the details are still being worked out.

When the money begins to flow for point-of-sale rebates (HEEHRA) the upfront savings for several appliances has been set. For example, If you buy a new ENERGY STAR induction stove, you can currently get $840.00 off the price right when you buy it—no application necessary. 

As mentioned, the other pending IRA rebate program is the HOMES (Home Efficiency Rebates) Program. This program will offer performance-based rebates for whole-home energy retrofits. Save energy in your home and get reimbursed! This will be an income-based program and the details are being worked out. 

Solar panels are another whole-home retrofit and, currently, offer a 30% tax credit. There’s no cap, either, so whether you spend $10,000 or $100,000 on solar panels, you’ll get a 30% tax credit. 

Where can Sonoma County residents go for more information on energy efficiency and home upgrades? 

Kevin: I highly recommend keeping up with the organizations outlined above—the Climate Action and Resiliency Division, BayREN, and Sonoma Clean Power.  

These three resources will help you stay in the know about what state and local benefits are available and can answer all your questions. 

Be aware that local rebates can change suddenly, so you want to stay up to date on what’s being offered. Representatives from these organizations are also happy to sit down with folks—free of charge—and answer any questions and figure out their best options.

You can also “stack” the programs and benefits from each level of government (federal through the IRA, regional through BayREN, and county through Sonoma Clean Power) to take advantage of everything available to you. 

I also recommend these online resources that are not specific to Sonoma County: 

  • Rewiring America: A leading electrification nonprofit, focused on electrifying homes, businesses, and communities. 
  • Canary Media: An independent, nonprofit newsroom that covers clean energy and climate crisis solutions. 
  • Elephant Energy: A climate-tech startup dedicated to electrifying everything, focusing on heat pumps in homes.
  • QuitCarbon: An excellent resource that allows you to speak with an expert at no cost who can guide you through the home electrification process 
  • The Switch Is On: A nationwide campaign that provides tools and support for homeowners to electrify their homes.

Making your home more eco-friendly isn’t just great for the environment. It can also provide you with big cost savings, lower emissions, improve indoor air quality, and help you boost the selling price of your home. 

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you. 

 

About Lindsey Samuelsen 

Lindsey Samuelsen is a licensed REALTOR®, brokered by Luxe Places International Realty. She has helped dozens of people with new home presales, resale homes or selling their property. Lindsey specializes in presale homes, land sales, first-time home buyers, real estate investing, and probate sales. Being a Realtor is her dream job and she loves helping people find their new place to call home. Lindsey grew up in Petaluma and now enjoys living in a newer Rohnert Park neighborhood, so she really knows the ins and outs of living in Sonoma County!

In her spare time, Lindsey loves experiencing Sonoma County by hiking, going to yoga, trying new restaurants, or checking out local live music. 

Contact Lindsey at lindseysamuelsen1@gmail.com or 415-971-7437. DRE# 02111972

 

About Kevin Conway

Kevin is a retired physical therapist who has worked as a climate activist for the last decade. His passionate advocacy led him to co-found Friends of Climate Action Progress (FoCAP), which effective  only worked with the Santa Rosa city council on several climate priorities. 

Today, FoCAP is focused on spreading the word about the Inflation Reduction Act through an easy-to-understand presentation that breaks down how Sonoma County residents can use government tax credits and rebates to take important climate action in their daily lives. 

If you’d like access to the FoCAP slide presentation, reach out to Kevin at kevin397conway@gmail.com or 707-495-7804.