Windsor Efficiency PAYS®

Location: Town of Windsor in Sonoma County, California

Seed Funding: $665,000—a portion of Los Angeles County's $30 million funding

Target Building Types: Residential (single-family, multifamily)

Learn more:

Read program design details


Town of Windsor
Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority
Sonoma County Water Agency
Energy Efficiency Institute Inc.
Climate Protection Campaign
Sonoma County Energy
Independence Program
Bottom Line Utility Solutions
Standards of Excellence
Sonoma Mountain Landscape
Chilipepper Appliance
Niagara Conservation

Promoting Energy Efficiency in Windsor, California, With Water Efficiency Efforts

California is known for its clean energy portfolio. For the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA), water efficiency is also a key component in meeting the county's energy efficiency goals, due to the fact that it takes a significant amount of energy to heat and transport water.

Sonoma County's Windsor Efficiency PAYS® (Pay As You Save) initiative is helping Windsor, California, residents save water—and thus energy—through energy- and water-efficient product installations. An on-bill financing mechanism allows participants to pay for installed measures as they save money on their utility bills. From high-efficiency showerheads to drought-tolerant landscaping, the program's unique offerings highlight a new approach communities can take to increase residential energy and water efficiency. The program also provides program officials the opportunity to market energy efficiency upgrades through its parent program, the statewide Energy Upgrade California.

Driving Demand: Blanketed Approach Reveals Residents Most Interested in Upgrades
Workforce Development: Targeted Training Enhances the Program's Team Effort
Program Design: "Plus" and "Co-Pay" Measures Build on the Basic Package
Financing: Windsor Residents Pay as They Save With On-Bill System

Blanketed Approach Reveals Residents Most Interested in Upgrades

The Town of Windsor first marketed the PAYS® offer to the entire Windsor community to gauge each resident's interest level. Prior to the start of the on-bill financing pilot in August 2012, all Windsor residential utility customers (approximately 8,000) were sent bill stuffers in their water bill announcing Windsor Efficiency PAYS.® Any Windsor customer who did not want to be contacted was given the opportunity to "opt out" of the program; all other customers were eligible to be contacted by a Windsor Efficiency PAYS® certified contractor to schedule an in-home visit.

Among the residents first contacted were those at the top of the Town of Windsor's list of water users, those with summer or annual water usage rates in the town's top third percentile of water users. According to Sonoma County RCPA Program Analyst Misty Mersich, targeting these high water users first was done to maximize both energy and water savings throughout the town.

Targeted Training Enhances the Program's Team Effort

To ensure the program's contractors effectively market measures to residents who did not opt out, contractors are required to become Windsor Efficiency PAYS® certified contractors. Certification requires PAYS® program education, training on how to properly install program measures, and a passing score on a written exam.

The Windsor Efficiency PAYS® certification agent and Town of Windsor utility staff also receive service training on how to respond to customer service-related issues, including effective and consistent approaches for explaining upgrade measures, customer benefits, and customer surcharge responsibilities.

"Windsor Efficiency PAYS provides a real win-win for local residents and the town. Windsor residents will be able to enjoy new, efficient appliances and can replace their lawns with low-water landscaping, which will save them money."
-- Debora Fudge,
Mayor, Town of Windsor

"Plus" and "Co-Pay" Measures Build on the Basic Package

Residents who choose to participate in Windsor Efficiency PAYS® start with a Basic Package, after which they are eligible for Basic Plus or Co-Pay add-ons. The Basic Package includes installation of water-efficient measures (see table below). Customers must have these three measures installed in order to become eligible for either the Basic Plus or Co-Pay add-ons.

MeasuresBasic PackageBasic Plus Add-OnCo-Pay Add-On
High-efficiency toilets  
High-efficiency showerheads  
Faucet aerators  
High-efficiency clothes washer  
Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs  
Drought-tolerant landscape  
High-efficiency refrigerator  
High-efficiency clothes dryer  
On-demand hot water recirculation pump  

All measures are pre-selected to ensure maximum water and energy efficiency, with toilets, showerheads, and aerators exceeding the water efficiency standards offered under existing Town of Windsor rebate programs. "Some measures will save water, some energy, some both," Mersich said.

Both the Basic Package and the Basic Plus measures require no up-front payment from participating residents. Co-Pay add-ons, which are discussed only if customers are interested in learning about them, do require initial, partial payment.

Windsor Residents Pay as They Save With On-Bill System

Sonoma County's on-bill financing pilot was developed by the Energy Efficiency Institute Inc. and is based on the institute's PAYS® system. Windsor Efficiency PAYS® works to minimize residents' perceived risk of investment by eliminating the initial cost burden and assuring customers that no strings are attached if they relocate or the equipment fails. Through Windsor Efficiency PAYS®, residents can invest in efficiency measures without any up-front costs, debt obligations, credit checks, or liens.

Those who install measures are assured that their estimated monthly energy savings, based on household energy and water usage data provided by the resident, will be greater than the monthly charge for the measures. In addition, participants who relocate are not obligated to continue payment on the measures. The new homeowner or tenant is given full disclosure of the measure surcharge and absorbs the cost burden for the remainder of the payment period, while enjoying the savings delivered by the measure.

To help ensure product performance during ownership, the program offers protection under an extended warranty. Either failed equipment is replaced at no cost or the participant's payback responsibilities are forgiven if it cannot be fixed and the participant did not cause the equipment failure through mishandling.

To minimize up-front costs for participants, any costs for fixtures and appliances installed through Windsor Efficiency PAYS® that are not part of a Co-Pay add-on are paid up front with capital funding by the Town of Windsor. To recoup its investment, the Town of Windsor charges each participant a program activity fee included in the on-bill surcharge on the monthly water bill. This on-bill system allows residents to invest in the water- and energy-efficient measures offered through the program with no initial out-of-pocket costs, credit checks, or new debt.

The Town of Windsor's long-term return on investment from the program activity charge covers the cost to provide the up-front capital funding for the pilot. Funding also helps stabilize water and water reclamation revenues so that non-participants do not pay large rate increases because of others' participation.

To determine each participant's on-bill surcharge, a calculation is made to establish the percent of savings that will be seen on the water bill and electricity or natural gas bill. This estimate is based on existing energy and water use and the potential estimated savings from the installed measures. Windsor program officials estimate that installed measures save participants an average $1.00 in utility costs for every $0.75 surcharge that is added to their water bills. Although all surcharges are included on the water bill, participants are expected to see savings on their water, electricity, and natural gas bills.


Suzanne Smith
RCPA Executive Director

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program