October 11, 2017
Property assessed clean energy, better known by its acronym PACE, is a financing innovation that has revolutionized the way property owners upgrade their homes and businesses. According to the Department of Energy, “PACE programs allow local governments, state governments, or other inter-jurisdictional authorities, when authorized by state law, to fund the upfront cost of energy improvements on commercial and residential properties, which are paid back over time by the property owners.”
These “energy improvements” can take a variety of different forms. Since PACE programs are administered locally and based on state guidelines, there is no universal list of PACE-eligible improvements that apply to every region in the United States. The exact projects that qualify for this special form of financing can vary from place to place. That said, certain types of projects often qualify for the program. It’s important to work with an experienced PACE provider who can tell you, the property owner, if you will qualify for funding for a certain type of improvement in your location. If you don’t qualify, they could potentially direct you to alternative projects that could also lead to energy savings and could qualify for PACE financing.
To give you some ideas, here’s a list of the most common PACE-funded improvements.
Solar panels can provide significant energy savings. Panels can last 20 to 25 years on average, and the overall energy savings over time may far surpass the initial cost of the project. The exact amount saved will vary from state to state. According to Energy Sage, in California, the average upfront purchase cost for a solar system is around $13,000, and the average estimated 20-year energy savings will exceed $28,000. In Florida, purchased systems average $9,900, with estimated 20-year energy savings of around $16,000. Some homeowners may also consider leasing solar panels instead of buying, especially if they are concerned about potential maintenance problems or costs.
Heat pumps, furnaces, air conditioners, and duct upgrades can all qualify for PACE financing in many municipalities. Homeowners do not need to install a renewable energy source to obtain PACE funding. When it comes to HVAC systems, new equipment can provide significant energy savings when compared to older units.
The EPA’s Energy Star certification process singles out appliances that provide the highest level of efficiency. Selecting air conditioners, furnaces, or heat pumps with this designation is a good way to improve HVAC efficiency. Energy Star products may also qualify for tax credits. Altering ductwork is an often-overlooked efficiency improvement, but PACE financing may be available for homeowners who want to upgrade or insulate their ducts in order to limit the loss of conditioned air.
Doors and Windows
New doors and windows may qualify for PACE financing in certain situations. Like HVAC equipment, high-efficiency windows and doors are certified by Energy Star, so it’s generally easy to pick out models that will lower heating and cooling costs. Windows and doors are an attractive home improvement because they offer cosmetic enhancements in addition to greater efficiency. Other upgrades related to windows and doors also fall into the PACE purview, even though they are less noticeable. For example, shading from eaves or blinds can decrease cooling costs, while the installation of skylights can lower heating bills by increasing solar gain. Finally, homeowners may be able to save on energy costs by adding weather stripping around doors and sealing around window frames.
LED lighting offers significant energy savings compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. Not only are LED lights cheaper to illuminate, but they last much longer than alternatives. An average incandescent light costs between $3.50 and $4.80 per year to operate, while a comparable LED costs only $1 for the same amount of time, according to figures from the DOE. An LED light will last 25 times longer than its incandescent peers, further increasing its cost efficiency.
PACE programs may be able to help with the higher upfront cost of installing LED lighting fixtures. Because of their efficiency and lifespan, these fixtures usually pay for themselves in the long run. Other lighting-related options include automated switches, which use either timers or sensors to trigger the on and off switch. These controls can limit energy waste if homeowners forget to turn lights off.
Designed for hot climates, cool roofing works by deflecting the sun's heat to keep living spaces comfortable. A cool roof may require a roof replacement, or the application of a special coating or membrane to shield the sun. Either option can lower air conditioning costs, making it eligible for PACE financing. Cool roofing can also lengthen the lifespan of the roof, as excessive heat can cause it to wear sooner.
Older homes, depending on when they were built, may lack adequate insulation. Homes built before 1950 may lack insulation entirely; even those built before the 1980s may benefit from an insulation upgrade. Insulation offers an appealing cost-to-energy-savings ratio, but there are many variables to consider. For example, different climates require different levels of insulation. These levels can be measured with something called R-values. Basically, the colder the climate, the higher the R-value needs to be.
The insulation’s location also matters. Attics are often under-insulated, but walls and underfloor insulation projects can prove more complicated. Contractors may have to spray loose insulation or foam insulation into tight spaces between walls. PACE financing can make this project more financially feasible, even if it’s complicated. With potential energy savings between 10 and 50 percent, depending on your home, insulation is typically a worthwhile investment.
Water Efficiency and Landscaping
PACE programs cover more than energy improvements; water-saving measures such as plumbing and landscape irrigation may also be financed. Installing low-flow fixtures (for toilets, faucets, and showers) may help homeowners save money on water costs. Greywater toilet systems, where water is captured from sinks, showers, and/or washing machines and used to flush toilets, are included in some PACE program offerings. Most newer toilets and fixtures contain low-flow characteristics, though some states, such as California, have lowered flow-rate requirements even further.
Landscaping irrigation can take many forms. In some parts of the country where water prices are high, adding drip irrigation, a rainwater catchment system, or a greywater irrigation system could resulting in savings while circumventing watering restrictions. These improvements could range from a basic rainwater catchment barrel attached to the gutter, to a complicated greywater irrigation system that uses filters and pumps to clean water from the drain and redistribute it to the yard.
Natural Disaster Preparedness
PACE programs may also cover natural disaster preparedness improvements. Obviously, these options will vary depending on the disaster risks in your area. In hurricane and tornado zones, for example, PACE financing may help cover the cost of installing impact-resistant windows or roof bracing options such as hurricane straps. If floods are common, homeowners may be able to finance water barriers. In areas where earthquakes are common, bolting the frame to the home’s foundation, fastening the cripple wall to the frame and foundation, and adding reinforcing brackets to connect all sections of the home together may be necessary.
Why You Need An Expert
These projects, or similar improvements, usually qualify for PACE financing. If you’re unsure of the local PACE rules, you can enlist a PACE expert to guide you through the process so that you can secure funding – and get an improvement that will lead to significant energy savings.
Find out if PACE is available in your area – contact Ygrene at (855) 901-3999 or firstname.lastname@example.org today to learn more.