Some Sacramento residents can find ways to lower their home energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions with a new, free online tool.
The city and Sacramento Municipal Utility District are providing the tool, called XeroHome, through at least spring 2024 to help meet climate change goals.
Sacramento residents living in single-family houses or duplexes can enter their address and receive recommendations, such as replacing a gas water heater with an electric one. The tool estimates costs for the upgrades, how long it might take to get a return on investment, as well as rebates and tax credits available.
The city launched the tool last month as part of its plans to transition existing buildings to all-electric power by 2045, associate planner Laura Tuller said. She added single-family homes account for nearly 75% of natural gas use in the city, so they are a focus of the city’s electrification strategy.
“The great news is that switching to all electric appliances in single-family homes is cost effective,” Tuller said. “Now there's available technology and every single-family home in Sacramento is projected to see utility bill savings when they make the switch.”
Apartment renters can’t currently use the tool, but XeroHome President and CEO Mudit Saxena said his team has been working on a version for multi-family homes. XeroHome plans to make the version — which won’t be as detailed as the current one — available for Sacramento in the coming weeks, Saxena said in an email.
It can be difficult to provide accurate models on multi-unit buildings because individual units often don’t have their own heating and cooling systems, Tuller said. The current XeroHome tool asks users to identify how their home is heated, such as through a central natural gas furnace, an electric resistance furnace or other setups.
For people living in single-family houses, the tool gives suggestions on electric retrofits, upgrading windows and improving ceiling and wall insulation. Suggestions are based on house characteristics such as square-footage, climate of the area and input such as what temperatures users set their thermostats to in the winter and summer.
XeroHome also links to SMUD’s contractor network so residents can research options, Tuller said. If and when other financial incentives become available through the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the state, Tuller said the tool will be updated to show current SMUD rebates and federal tax credits available.
The city and SMUD are paying for the XeroHome service, Tuller said. Sacramento’s contribution comes from the $4.4 million one-time allocation for a climate work plan the City Council approved in February 2021, she added. CapRadio searched the city’s online records portal for a contract listing how much the XeroHome tool costs, but no results were found.
The council adopted a framework for existing building electrification in June 2021, but the city is still developing a strategy for the goal. City staff plan to present a recommended strategy to the council by this summer, according to an FAQ page on the city website.
While the city is aiming to transition existing buildings to all electric energy by 2045, the goals for new buildings are different: Sacramento’s new building electrification ordinance went into effect for low-rise buildings this year. Applications to construct new high-rise buildings must meet the same standard starting in 2026.
Building electrification requirements and goals are part of the city’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Gas use in buildings made up roughly 15% of greenhouse gas emission in Sacramento in 2020, according to the city.
Other reasons city staff have given for electrification include improving indoor and outdoor air quality because burning gas produces pollutants. All-electric buildings can also reduce the risk of gas leaks, explosions and fires.
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