SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Vouchers for as much as $300 are encouraging residential customers of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to get their ducts tested and sealed. Participating contractors must have B or C-20 licenses and get special training or prove that they know how to perform the procedures.

The program for single-family residences applies to existing single-family homes, four-plex or less condos and apartment groups, and mobile homes. Property owners or tenants with owner permission may engage in the program, according to Loralyn Perry, program manager of PG&E’s Residential Contractor Program.

The conservation-minded program includes incentives for basic hvac diagnosis and tune-ups, duct testing alone, or duct testing and sealing.

Other facets of the program encourage the purchase and installation of Energy Star® central heat pumps, air conditioners, and gas furnaces.

PG&E’s service territory covers more than 70,000 sq miles extending from Bakersfield, Calif., northward to the California-Oregon border and serves 12 million people.

More on the hvac side

The hvac conservation measures, aside from installation of Energy Star equipment, include:

  • Basic hvac diagnostic/ tune-up, for which a $75 voucher is issued; an eligible contractor checks and corrects the refrigerant charge and evaporator coil airflow on central air conditioners and heat pumps. If the procedure is performed on more than one such unit in a home, the incentive is paid on each unit.

  • Duct testing, which also qualifies for a $75 voucher; contractors can use one of three options for estimating total system airflow, including using a default value of cfm/ton, the use of a flow-capture hood, and the use of a Duct Blaster® manual protocol.

  • Duct testing and sealing, with a $200 voucher as incentive; if the duct testing yields an estimate of leakage greater than the minimum allowed, duct sealing may also be done.

    After ducts are sealed, airflow through the system must be rechecked. “If it is found too low, then corrective steps shall be taken in accordance with the installation standards for the program,” the company says.

  • Advanced hvac diagnostic/tune-up, qualifying for a $300 voucher. This package includes duct testing, the basic hvac diagnostic/tune-up, and duct sealing.

Energy Star incentive program

The PG&E incentives for Energy Star central heat pumps and air conditioners require the residential customer to have the basic hvac diagnostic/tune-up, duct testing, and (if necessary) duct sealing, and installation of a programmable thermostat if one isn’t already present.

The applicable incentives for each of those procedures ($25 voucher for the thermostat installation if performed in combination with other measures) is added to the $225 voucher.

A customer opting for the Energy Star gas furnace incentive ($250 voucher) must also have ducts tested and, if necessary, sealed. The customer must also install a programmable thermostat if the residence is not already equipped with one.

PG&E requires combustion air safety (CAS) testing for duct testing and sealing, the advanced hvac diagnostic/tune-up, Energy Star gas furnace, Energy Star heat pumps or central air conditioners when duct sealing is involved.

No duct sealing may be conducted until a CAS test is passed, the company specifies. The requirement applies only to homes with gas or solid-fuel appliances.

After sealing and airflow correction, another CAS test must be conducted, PG&E says. If that CAS test fails, “PG&E must be informed and no other measures are to be installed until the CAS problem is corrected.”

Duct testing and sealing results must be documented by the participating contractor.

Under the current program, PG&E will issue vouchers to customers upon request until the end of this year (Dec. 31, 1999). Contractors must submit their last vouchers no later than March 31, 2000.

Payment and all necessary inspection for 1999 jobs shall be complete not later than May 31, 2000, PG&E says.

For more information about contractor training requirements, call 800-244-9912.