to cover upfront costs of energy upgrades
Utility bill savings cover monthly loan payments for most borrowers
Cameron M. Burns
Clean Energy Economy News
May 15, 2014
Lisa Doherty and her 1893 home in New Castle.
“I encourage all residents who are experiencing energy loss through poor insulation or single pane windows to get an energy audit, as soon as possible, and make the necessary changes to conserve our finite, global energy resources.
“The ripple effect of these conscious changes will not only affect your wallet, but our ability to refine the implementation of renewable sources in our near and distant future. This is our ethical and communal obligation.”
-- Lisa Doherty, New Castle homeowner
More homeowners are now using Garfield Clean Energy’s Residential Revolving Loan Fund to to save money on home energy upgrades such as furnaces, doors, windows and solar energy. And for most of them, the savings in energy costs offset the monthly loan payment.
Take Lisa Doherty, owner of an 1893 home in New Castle. After learning about the potential for home energy efficiency, she got a home energy assessment. It showed that the home’s windows, doors and walls were leaking heat and wasting energy.
“Until my energy audit, I had no idea how energy inefficient my home was,” she said. The energy assessment report listed the upgrades that would help Doherty save energy and money. Doherty moved forward to get a price quote from Vance Hutchinson of Colorado Carpentry for replacing all of the home’s 17 windows.
The quote came in at $15,547. Doherty didn’t have that kind of cash on hand, but she was able to finance the work through Garfield Clean Energy’s Residential Revolving Loan Fund. Her energy bills have gone down, and she’s using the money saved on utility bills to pay back the loan.
“My loan just hovers under $300 a month, for five years,” she said. “So it’s definitely worth it.”
Garfield Clean Energy’s Residential Revolving Loan Fund is capitalized with $300,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funds were part of a larger grant that CLEER wrote in 2009 for Garfield County. The loan fund is managed by Funding Partners, a nonprofit based in Fort Collins that also manages affordable housing and municipal improvement loans for local governments across the state.
First launched in 2012, the loan fund has now provided funding to 10 borrowers in Garfield County for more than $100,000 in energy upgrade projects. All are current, and together the borrowers have repaid about $13,000 on their loans. The fund has about $213,000 available for more loans.
The loans offer favorable interest rates of 3.75 to 8.5 percent, depending on the loan term and the borrower’s credit rating. Loans can be as small as $1,000 or as large as $25,000 and repaid over five to 10 years. Borrowers pay a $25 application fee and a $125 closing fee.
“One of the best things about the Revolving Loan Fund is the incredibly quick turnaround,” said Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf of CLEER, who handles incoming loan requests for Garfield Clean Energy. “We can usually get a loan approval for qualified borrowers within 24 hours. That’s especially important for people who are dealing with emergencies, such as having a furnace or boiler fail during the winter.”
Homeowners who seek a loan also get free Energy Coaching services from Garfield Clean Energy. An Energy Coach helps homeowners prioritize their projects, work with contractors and make the most of available rebates.
“In addition to a low-interest loan, subsidized by the DOE, the greatest asset to me was that CLEER provided names of local contractors who had experience in this process, specifically the retrofitting of window upgrades and doors in older homes,” Doherty wrote in an email to CLEER. “I was able to visit homes that had received the Milgard windows and was able to proceed with confidence in my purchase.”
Free energy coaching helps homeowners
Doherty said Metcalf, her energy coach, also helped keep the upgrade projects moving forward.
“If not for CLEER staff following up with me via emails and calls, I may have indefinitely deferred my energy upgrade,” Doherty wrote. “With enough support and encouragement, I proceeded, and am already experiencing the benefits of having a warmer home and curtailing heat loss.”
Like Doherty, Heidi Schultz of New Castle also replaced windows in her home.
“The loan has allowed me to pay for other energy upgrades as well, like insulating the roof and bedroom," Schultz said.
“My energy bills have been cut almost in half and I can see out my windows in the winter,” Shultz said. She’s no longer looking through tacked-up plastic sheeting. “I’m glad I applied, because now the money I’m spending on loan payments is paying for my upgrades instead of going to energy bills."
In addition to windows and doors, the loans can also be used to finance high-efficiency furnaces, boilers and water heaters, insulation and air sealing, and solar electric or solar hot water systems, and for necessary related construction.
The loan fund can also be used to help pay for health and safety upgrades such as radon, mold or asbestos mitigation, although the homeowner must also carry out one or more energy efficiency upgrades financed by the loan. The mitigation work can be up to 25 percent of the total loan amount.
Contractors using loan fund to help customers
The loans are also helpful to building and HVAC contractors. Several contractors that work closely with Garfield Clean Energy and CLEER have begun marketing the loans to potential customers, which could increase their business.
Chris Allen, sales and production manager for Climate Control of Glenwood Springs, has taken it a step further. Climate Control’s technicians are running numbers to show homeowners how much they can save with energy upgrades and informing them about using the Revolving Loan Fund to cover the upfront costs.
“The energy upgrade loan allows homeowners to pay for their upgrades with the savings in operating costs,” Allen said.
“Putting off an improvement, replacement or upgrade for even three years can cost thousands more in utility overpayment. The efficiency loan is an investment that has a return,” Allen said. “The sooner the investment is made, the sooner the reward can be reaped.”
Doherty and other borrowers are reaping those financial rewards, but there are other benefits as well.
“I encourage all residents who are experiencing energy loss through poor insulation or single pane windows to get an energy audit, as soon as possible, and make the necessary changes to conserve our finite, global energy resources,” Doherty said.
“The ripple effect of these conscious changes will not only affect your wallet, but our ability to refine the implementation of renewable sources in our near and distant future,” Doherty said. “This is our ethical and communal obligation.”
Contact CLEER to enroll in free energy coaching at 704-9200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.