Dear Comfort Advisor,
My brother lives in Pennsylvania and got a low interest, unsecured loan to replace his furnace and make other energy improvements. I would love to replace my furnace but am skittish about raiding my savings for the upfront cost given the economy. A loan like his would really help. Is anything like that available here in Montana?
Dear Need a Loan Lucy,
I would guess he is talking about Keystone HELP, an innovative one stop energy efficiency program that involves many partners and is headed by the PA DEQ, PA Treasury Dept, and PA Housing Finance Agency. Check out the website at www.keystonehelp.com. It would be wonderful if Montana could implement a similar model here. Ask your representative headed to Helena to check it out. I have mentioned various efficiency finance programs before but they are pretty specific and figuring out which one you might qualify for is not easy. One is specific to seniors and low income families. The other is administered by DEQ and is for renewable energy models only (Geothermal heat pumps are included) and is funded by air quality penalties.
Just last week, the House in Washington passed HR 4785: Rural Energy Savings Program Act. This bill would create a new federal re-lending program that allows the Dept. of Agriculture to provide zero-interest loans to rural cooperative that in return create low-interest loans to their customers for energy efficiency projects. The loan is repaid in the consumer’s electric bill. In many cases, the savings pay for the loan. This is helpful if your heating source is powered by electricity, not so helpful if you use natural gas or propane. However the bill also features a Home Star Energy Efficiency Loan Program under which DOE would provide loans to states and territories to create similar loan programs. These state programs could offer loans for other energy sources.
Passing the House is a good start but the legislation still has other hurdles, passing the Senate, being one of them. And many utilities around the nation set up loan programs on their own, but the federal funding would surely help especially for smaller cooperatives. So help like your brother is getting could be coming down the pike but not available at the moment. There are additional bills in Washington that address energy efficiency and conservation so it might be time for Montana to implement a structure like Keystone HELP so we can better leverage these needed dollars and quickly get them out to consumers like you.
In the mean time, your bank might offer a home equity loan or line of credit that would allow you to repay over time without that raid on savings. Interest rates are low and it doesn’t hurt to make that call. This kind of investment in energy efficiency can significantly reduce you heating costs and improve comfort levels. Energy efficiency does not mean doing without or wearing your ski gear indoors. It is all about doing more with less. We see firsthand, and can quantify the amount of wasted energy that escapes up flue pipes and through lots of little cracks and leaks in a building envelop. To quantify how much you might save and how much that might cost, give me call at AirWorks.