Upgrade Options

Work with Synerforce to figure out the best upgrades for your home and your budget. Based on your energy assessment, Synerforce will help you prioritize improvements so you get the results you want: Comfort and Efficiency. For example, if your house is hot and stuffy, you might seal and insulate your house first, then get an air conditioning unit that is the right size for your reduced energy needs – It might be smaller than you think! Don't assume that the recommendations for energy upgrades will always be costly. The greatest percentage of energy savings may be from some of the least costly upgrades such as reducing air leaks, adding attic insulation, and insulating water heaters, pipes and ducts. The more energy you save, the more comfortable you home will be – which also translates into lower utility bills and higher rebates and incentives! The Energy Upgrade rebates are based on the percentage of improvement in your home's energy use, not on the cost of a specific appliance or improvement.

"Savings and Rebates Tips" – The typical homeowner has saved about 30% energy after completing upgrades, and there are substantial rebates and below market rate financing to make your improvements very affordable. The size of the rebate depends on the percentage of the increase in your home's efficiency, not the cost of what you do."

Do these cost-effective measures first……

1. Duct Sealing

Ducts are hidden problems with easy fixes. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that a typical homeowner can save 20% on heating andcooling costs just by sealing ducts and the home's "envelope" (walls, floors, ceiling/attic). You'll save even more if you have an older or particularly leaky home. Sealing is one of the least expensive upgrades that you can make to improve your home's comfort and energy efficiency. Some air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel, like those around windows and doors. You might even feel air around outlets and recessed lights. Here's a tip: try holding lighted incense stick next to a suspicious area and see the smoke drifts - if it does, you have a leak. You'll need a diagnostic energy assessment to spot hidden holes in attics, basements and crawl spaces, which are harder to find and usually bigger problems. The same is true for small spaces around vents, faucets and the underside of eaves. Much of the air leaking into our houses come from crawl spaces and attics, which often contain dust, allergens and pollutants we really don't want to breathe. Air sealing also makes homes safer and healthier. However, your home needs ventilation, and that is especially true if your home is using fuel-fired appliances-gas water heater, heating system or stove. A Participating Contractor knows how to properly seal your home and still ensure proper ventilation.

2. Air Sealing

Many homeowners have drafty homes that are uncomfortable to live in but they are unaware what the problem is or how to come up with a solution. As a building settles over time and seasonal temperature fluctuations expand and contract construction materials, gaps and cracks can develop in a home. Hidden behind walls or inside attics, these infiltrations can be hard to find, but they can mean big energy losses after they added up. On average, 75% of the air inside an old drafty home leaks to the outside every hour. That's $0.75 of every dollar spent to heat or condition that air! Why waste money on heating and cooling when proper air sealing can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long term. The solution is Air Draft Sealing.

Benefits of Air Sealing

  • Increased Comfort - and Reduced draftiness and better temperature retention.
  • Lower Utility Bills - Less wasted heated/cooled air means less money spent on bills.
  • Improved Air Quality - Ensures damp and dusty air does not enter the home.
  • Increased Insulation Performance - Insulation will last longer and perform better.
  • Cost Effective - One of the most inexpensive and effective home improvement measures.

Air Sealing Procedure

First the source of infiltration must be identified. This can be sometimes done visually, but is most accurately assessed with a blower door test and infrared camera or non-toxic smoke machine. The blower door measures the rate of air flowing through the home and the infrared camera/ smoke machine reveals where the greatest air flow is coming from.

The trick is not to seal the home too tightly, which can cause other health and efficiency problems. Our building analysts calculate and prescribe the proper amount of sealing needed to achieve maximum efficiency without sacrificing proper ventilation.

Once the sources of infiltration are identified, the penetrations are carefully sealed using insulated foam board and expanding foam. This method performs very effectively in reducing the draftiness of the home. Most homeowners are surprised to discover the enhanced comfort after their homes are properly air sealed. Proper air sealing also improves insulation performance over time because the less air traveling over the insulation, the longer the insulation will last.

A large number of homes in the Bay Area have no air sealing at all since they were built before 1979. Older homes benefit greatly from professional air sealing as they usually have a lot of leaky spots that are harder to identify visually.

3. Attic Insulation

"Insulation is sexy stuff." Everyone is saying it now: insulation is key to a comfortable home. Most homeowners are aware of drafts around doors and windows. But not many realize that they're losing home heating and cooling energy through their ceilings, floors and walls. If your home was built prior to the 1960s, it may have no insulation at all. If it was built before the 1970s, it likely has no insulation in its walls. Even since 1970s, insulation types and installation methods have improves significantly. After you seal your house, adding insulation will noticeably save energy, keep you more comfortable and reduce noise from outside your house or between walls. You'll need an expert to check for safety first, if you have old knob and tube wiring or lead paint issues. You'll get the most efficiency from insulating your ceiling, then your floor/crawl space and walls. Insulation comes in several forms and materials that meet today's building codes. Below are some of most common insulation materials and methods:

  • Batts and Rolls – Pre-formed pieces of insulation made of fiberglass or cellulose that can work well when fitted between joists. Preformed blankets are also useful for wrapping your heating/cooling ducts.
  • Blown-in insulation – Unformed, loose insulation-particularly efficient and cost effective for use in attics and for filling un-insulated walls. This additional insulation can be blown on top of inadequate existing insulation, if that's in good shape. Loose fill provides better insulation than batts, but it's dusty when installed and you don't want to breathe it until it's settled.
  • Cellulose – An organic material made from plant fiber-much of it comes from recycled newspaper, treated with borate, a natural fire retardant. It offers the green benefits of recycling and is a low cost, easy-to-use product. Available as loose fill or batts. You can also consider the more expensive recycled denim.
  • Fiberglass – Light, cost –effective and available as loose fill or in batts. Fiberglass is particularly useful in areas such as older attics where the weight of the material may be a consideration. However, there are health hazards associated with airborne particles, so installers must use protective measures during installation.
  • Foams – Foam boards can be cut to fit between studs, rafters and floor joists. Spray foam expands to seal and insulate cavities, nooks and crannies, the gaps around electrical outlets, switches or recessed fixtures and along passages for plumbing and electrical wiring. There are health hazards when spraying, so professional protective measures are a must. Once installed, foam is stable and does not contain ozone-depleting gases.
  • Drill and Fill – Existing walls can be insulated, without opening them up, by drilling small holes and blowing in insulation (first ensure you don't have existing insulation or old knob and tube wiring). A little touch-up paint and it's done!
4. Hot Water Heater and Pipe Insulation

In a typical home, 9% of the energy used for water heating is lost moving water to and from the tank and your faucets — even more in large houses. Insulating hot water pipes reduces the amount of energy lost in distribution. As an added benefit, you won't have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on the faucet or shower. Good to know: Insulating your hot water pipes can raise the water temperature at the tap up to 4°F. Consider turning down the temperature of your water heater to 120°F for even more energy savings. Also, adding a water heater blanket can improve on the energy lost as well.

5. Wall Insulation

A home that gets too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter? Many homes in the Bay Area lack wall insulation. No wall insulation causes homes to be drafty and uncomfortable especially in the summer and winter months. Insulated house walls provide a more comfortable home for your family. Insulating wall panels also reduces your utility bills as the heater or air conditioner does not need to be on as long to maintain the desired temperature. During the Bay Area's hot summer months, wall insulation keeps the cool air inside. This is especially important on the South and West facing walls of your home where the sun hits the hardest. Insulated walls reduce the heat that enters your house making your home more comfortable. Wall insulation can have the added benefit of reducing the sound from outside that enters your home.

6. High Efficiency Furnace

Get smaller, better, cheaper. A typical California home loses up to half of its heating and cooling energy before it even reaches you through leaky ducts and poor insulation. New furnaces and air conditioning equipment can be smaller and more effective after you seal and insulate your home. You won't be leaking conditioned air and your house will retain the heat or cool better. That saves you money now on your purchase a smaller unit and later on your utility bills. Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to only run your furnace or air conditioner when you need it, at the temperature you want. Another step towards energy efficiency is to have your Participating Contractor retro fit your central heating and cooling system to create separate zones in your house that can be individually controlled by programmable thermostats. Why heat or cool a bedroom when you're in the living room? You'll also increase comfort – no longer will some rooms be too hot while others are too cold. Even if your heating and cooling units are relatively new, there may be practical alternatives that can really cut your costs.

Furnaces:Furnaces fired by fossil fuel, generally natural gas in California, can lose up to 35% of the energy they burn in exhaust up their flue. But, new furnaces can be highly efficient and may still be the most cost-effective choice for your home. Sealed combustion/condensing furnaces can achieve 97% efficiency and are environmentally friendly. They contain a second heat exchanger to extract additional heat from the gases. They're more expensive to buy, but more economical to run. The efficiency of furnaces is measured by "annual fuel utilization efficiency" (AFUE), which must be posted on the unit. Be sure to compare AFUEs, those 92% or higher will be the most energy efficient.

The average duct system leaks 35%. In addition to properly sizing the system, we ensure that your duct systems are air tight. This is critical to system performance. At the end of every duct retrofit and furnace installation we conduct a duct-blower test which measures the overall leakage. Building code typically requires a maximum of 15% leakage. We strive for less than 10% leakage.

7. Energy Efficient Windows

Window glass first came into use in the 1600s, and was typically just one thin pane of glass. On a cold day, the cold glass surface inside pulls heat away from your body, so you feel chilly, even in a sweater with the thermostat at 70 degrees. And during the summer, even a standard double-paned window allows about 75% of the sun's heat into your home. Fortunately, window technology has come a long way in just a few decades. In today's world, you have a lot of choices in selecting windows that can save 7-15% energy, according to the DOE. In fact the home energy assessment tests are so sensitive that you can identify the leakiest windows and replace just the worst offenders, if you choose. Plus, new windows add security, noise-reduction and better aesthetics. (Note that sealing and insulating you house first saves you even more energy and makes your new windows more effective.) If you decide to install new windows, there are many good choices, one of which will probably fit your budget. New windows come with Energy Star ratings, so you will easily be able to compare their energy efficiency, as well as their cost.

  • Double-Paned: Double-paned window consist of two pieces of glass with air between the two panes. They work like a Thermos bottle's insulation to cut down the flow of heat. You can also choose argon or krypton (odorless, colorless, non-toxic inert gases that increase insulation and energy efficiency.) Argon is the cheaper, more readily available gas, but krypton is a better insulator. You can also blend air, argon, and/or krypton to balance cost and performance.
  • Window Operating Types: You can also choose the operating type to determine how the window is going to work. A window that doesn't open at all is more energy efficient than windows that do open. The traditional hung or sliding window is the least energy efficient. But there are lots of good choices: awning, casement, or hopper. Most of which seal tightly against their own frames when they close.
  • Tints and Coatings: Window tints such as bronze and green keep out more of the sun's heat than clear glass does, although it might be harder to see through them. A low-emissivity (low-E) coating acts like sunscreen for your house. It's a microscopically thin layer of metal or metal oxide deposited on window glass. The coating reflects warmth back into the home in the winter and prevents unwanted heat from entering the home in the summer. This also protects your valuables from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduces interior fading by up to 75% without reducing visible light.
  • Frames: Window frames are made from a variety of materials, all of which have advantages and disadvantages. As a general rule, wood, vinyl, fiberglass and some composite materials transfer less heat than metal.

Application Process:

Action Steps

Energy Upgrade FAQ

Energy Upgrade California™ is an exciting new statewide program that can help you save money on home energy efficiency upgrade projects. These projects can potentially lower your utility bills, increase your home's energy and water efficiency, and create a more comfortable home.

Following are responses to common questions about the Energy Upgrade program. If you have more questions, please visit the one-stop-shop website at to learn more. As additional information becomes available, it will be posted on the website. Sign up for Energy Upgrade California e-updates to receive newsletters and updates about new information as soon as it becomes available!

These At-A-Glance Frequently Asked Questions describe the statewide Energy Upgrade California program. Program details may differ depending on location and utility provider. Check the local county pages on for your area's information.

Energy Upgrade California Program Overview


Key goals include:


The program is funded by:

Rebates and Incentives


Rebates and incentives vary by location and provider, but could include utility company incentives, American Reinvestment and Recovery Act rebates, water company rebates, city rebates and federal tax credits. Depending on your energy savings, you could receive more than $4,000—and even more for improvements like new heating and cooling systems or green building enhancements. You can learn more about your local rebates and incentives on the program's central resource website at


The 2011 tax credit is 10% of improvement cost, up to $500 maximum. Some restrictions apply. More information is available in the local rebate and incentive section of

"Whole House Approach"


Energy Upgrade encourages you to think of your house as a complete system working together—a "whole house"—rather than individual elements. Increasing your home's efficiency is more than switching out light bulbs or adding low-flow showerheads—it's approaching your home as a complete system, with heating, air-conditioning, water and other systems working together more efficiently to help lower your energy use.


Program Description


The program consists of two Upgrade Packages: Basic and Advanced. These packages provide straightforward options that qualify for rebates. Rebates and incentives vary by location, so be sure to check the program website to find out how much you can save in your area at

Getting Started


  1. Go to the program website and find your local program, learn about benefits, details and rebate information:
  2. Go to "My Action Plan," a simple step-by-step process to help identify your best upgrade option and locate a Participating Contractor.
  3. Select a Participating Contractor from Energy Upgrade California's online contractor database. You must work with a Participating Contractor to receive the Energy Upgrade rebates and incentives.
  4. Work with your Participating Contractor to further discuss the upgrade packages and confirm your Upgrade Package choice
  5. Receive your rebates and incentives!