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How do you know if home solar is not right for you?

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Is home solar NOT right for you?

How would you know? Part 1: You Qualify for Utility Rate Assistance.

While is there is a plethora of information available today both on and off the internet to help customers decide if a decision to install home solar will be right for them, there is little information about what to do if you’re looking to reduce your electric bill by means other than solar panels or energy efficiency.

For example, what kinds of programs exist for me if my loved one requires a home dialysis machine, if my family’s income is low, or if I’m recently unemployed?

The information I’m about to present is noticeably absent from most California solar companies websites because it doesn’t result in revenue for them. It’s incredibly important information because many solar sales people spend a lot of time with potential customers who are already taking advantage of or qualify for the plans I’m about to share with you.  The assistance available generally falls under what is known as CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy), but can go by a number of different names and take many forms.

Southern California Gas Company. There are two ways to qualify for CARE and save up to 20% on your gas bill:

  1. If you or another person in your household receives benefits from any of these programs:
    Medi-Cal / Medicaid
    Healthy Families Categories A & B
    Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
    CalWORKs (TANF) or Tribal TANF
    Head Start Income Eligible – Tribal Only
    Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance (BIA GA)
    CalFresh / SNAP (Food Stamps)
    National School Lunch’s Free Lunch Program (NSL)
    Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  2. Total income for all persons in your household meets the following income guidelines:
    Number of persons
    in household
    Total yearly household income* no more than
    1 $22,980
    2 $31,020
    3 $39,060
    4 $47,100
    5 $55,140
    6 $63,180
    7 $71,220
    8 $79,260
    For each additional person in your household add $8,040.* Includes current household income from all sources before deductions

Recently unemployed? If you are recently unemployed, your household income will be calculated from the date of your unemployment. All other provisions on determining income, described above, still apply.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE)

SDGE Video. Here is an overview of what’s available from SDGE and basic qualification information.

  1. The CARE program offers a monthly discount of 20% on your bill which can mean saving of up to $275 each year based on average energy use.  If you’re eligible you will typically see the discount within 30 days of receipt of your application.CARE eligibility is based on income and household size. Apply for CARE.
    Household Size Gross Annual Income Household Size Gross Annual Income
    1 $22,980 5 $55,140
    2 $31,020 6 $63,180
    3 $39,060 7 $71,220
    4 $47,100 8 $79,260
    Each Additional person: +$8,040
    Effective June 1, 2013 – May 31, 2014
  2. Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)
    If you meet specific income guidelines, the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program offers lower electricity rates based on usage. When your usage reaches tier 3, you will be billed at the lower tier 2 rate.  If your energy use does not reach tier 3, the FERA discount will not be applied to your bill. Eligible customers will see the discount within 30 days of receipt of your application. Apply for FERA.
  3. Medical Baseline
    If you or someone in your household has a medical need that requires increased energy usage, the Medical Baseline program can save an average of 30% a month on your electric and gas bill. The Medical Baseline program application needs to be signed by your physician and returned. Get the application HERE.

 Southern California Edison (SCE)

  1. SCE has updated the income guidelines for CARE and FERA as of June 1, 2013. If you’re thinking of applying for income assistance, you can easily see if you’re eligible. Already enrolled? Make sure you still qualify in the chart provided below. Apply HERE if you believe you qualify.
Maximum Household Income
Effective from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014
Number of Persons in Household Total Combined Annual Income CARE Total Combined Annual Income FERA

1

Up to $22,980 Not Eligible

2

Up to $31,020 Not Eligible

3

Up to $39,060 $39,061 – $48,825

4

Up to $47,100 $47,101 – $58,875

5

Up to $55,140 $55,141 – $68,925

6

Up to $63,160 $63,161 – $78,975

7

Up to $71,220 $71,221 – $89,025

8

Up to $79,260 $79,261 – $99,075

Each additional person

$8,040 $8,040 – $10,050

2. Eligibility for Medical Baseline:

To be eligible for Medical Baseline, you or someone who lives with you full-time must require use of a medical life-support device or piece of equipment. Life support devices utilize mechanical or artificial means to sustain, restore or replace a vital function. You or a full-time resident can also be a paraplegic, hemiplegic, quadriplegic, multiple sclerosis or scleraderma patient, or have a life-threatening illness or compromised immune system. Download the application HERE.

Life-Support Devices Include:

  • Aerosol Tent
  • Pressure Pad
  • Apnea Monitor
  • Pressure Pump
  • Compressor / Concentrator
  • Respirator (all types)
  • Electronic Nerve Stimulator
  • Suction Machine
  • Oxygen Generator
  • Ultrasonic Nebulizer
  • Electrostatic Nebulizer
  • Inhalation Pulmonary Pressure
  • Breather Machine (IPPB)
  • Iron Lung
  • Dialysis Machine
  • Hemodialysis Machine
  • Motorized Wheelchair

3. Are you eligible for free appliances? Let the Energy Savings Assistance Program help you conserve energy and save money. For income-qualified customers, SCE could provide free appliances and installation of energy-efficient refrigerators, air conditioners and more, as well as home efficiency solutions like weatherization that will help you save energy and money every day. Check SCE’s income levels above to confirm program eligibility.

Pacific Gas & Electric

  1. The CARE program provides a monthly discount on energy bills for income-qualified households and housing facilities. Qualifications are based on the number of persons living in your home and your total annual household income.
  2. The FERA program provides a monthly discount on electric bills for income-qualified households of three or more persons.
  3. PG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program provides income-qualified renters and homeowners with easy, free solutions to help manage their energy use and save money on their monthly energy bills.
  4. Medical Baseline provides additional quantities of energy at the lowest (baseline) price for residential customers. To qualify for Medical Baseline, a California-licensed physician must certify that a full-time resident in your home has one of these medical conditions:
    • Dependent on life-support equipment while at home*
    • A paraplegic, hemiplegic, quadriplegic or multiple sclerosis patient with special heating and/or cooling needs
    • A scleroderma patient with special heating needs
    • A life-threatening illness or compromised immune system with special heating and/or cooling requirements to sustain the patient’s life or prevent deterioration of the patient’s medical condition
  5. REACH is a one-time energy-assistance program sponsored by PG&E and administered through the Salvation Army from 170 offices in northern and central California. Those who have experienced an uncontrollable or unforeseen hardship may receive an energy credit up to $200, credit amount based on the past due amount of the bill. REACH assistance may be available once within an 18 month period, but exceptions can be made for seniors, the physically challenged and the terminally ill.

This blog should give you an idea of the range of programs available to those with low incomes, income disruption, or those who need extra electricity at baseline rates for at home medical purposes. Whether you’re in one of the utilities referenced above or not, knowing what types of rate assistance are available to you can help you decide if home solar is right for you. Take a few minutes to visit the links provided. The time spent could save you or a loved one significant amounts on electricity and natural gas bills.

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