Green Loans Improve Comfort, Lower Environmental Footprint, Save Money



thurston energy - thermostatMarylin Ball-Brown, President of Generations Credit Union, is also a Generations customer. Recently she took advantage of the incredibly low interest rate loans the credit union offers to have solar panels installed at her home.

She couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. “This year I received a $10,000 rebate on my taxes, my energy bills are down by a third, and we produced enough excess power to sell some back to Puget Sound Energy. Not only that, but the panels and processors were all Washington made, so we are supporting the local economy,” she said. She also is able to calculate that in three or four years her loan will be paid off and she’ll start making money from the panels.

There are many reasons to improve the efficiency of a home or to upgrade or add technology. Comfort is a great reason; ditch the sweaters and turn up the thermostat. Saving money, lowering our environmental footprint, tax deductions, improving the local economy by hiring green contractors, or learning that homes that are energy efficient have a lower mortgage default risk, by as much as 32%!*

The one roadblock that may get in the way of home efficiency improvements is the initial cost. Some costs are low, such as the expense of replacing floor insulation; other costs are high, such as installing solar panels, or new high-efficiency windows.

Consider Financing Home Energy Improvements

thurston energy window sealingOnce homeowners decide to invest in their home to save energy and money, a great option is to turn to local lending institutions to borrow the upfront capital, and watch the energy savings pay off financing over the life of the loan.

Thurston Energy, a program of the Thurston Economic Development Council (EDC) has made it a priority to make special arrangements with local banks and credit unions to provide low-interest loans to Thurston County homeowners for energy-efficient home improvements. The great news is that often, by investing in energy efficiency, the monthly energy savings can meet or exceed monthly finance payments on the loan.

Currently, there are three green loan lending partners: Generations Credit Union, O Bee Credit Union and Olympia Federal Savings.

Generations Credit Union is a small credit union located in downtown Olympia.

Generations Credit Union’s Ball-Brown said that they issued $1.2 million in solar loans in 2012 alone. In addition to solar, Generations makes loans available for ductless heat pumps, solar water heaters and window replacement.

Through a grant received by Thurston Energy, Generations will even buy down interest rates on loans for qualifying energy efficiency improvements like high efficiency heat pumps.

thurston energy - pipesIn order to take advantage of these low interest loans, there are a few steps that interested homeowners should take:

  1. Complete a Home Energy Audit: Visit Thurston Energy’s website or to call 360.528.2112. Thurston Energy will connect you with a trained energy expert to evaluate your home’s energy performance. Currently there are rebates available to lower the cost of the Home Energy Audit.
  2. Become a member of the credit union or bank. This is a very simple process, often as easy as opening an account with $5.
  3. Apply for the loan through your bank or credit union of choice.
  4. Contact a vendor in the Thurston Energy network of approved vendors to make the energy efficient improvements. Thurston Energy has created a network of local qualified contracting companies that provide energy efficiency upgrade work, high efficiency equipment installation, and renewable energy systems. They pre-screen each contractor in the network, and extensively interview them to make sure they are a good fit for the program.
  5. Jump for joy every time you get a bill and realize that the cost savings have paid for your energy efficient loan!

*Finally, if comfort, cost savings and potential tax credits are not enough of a reason to consider improving the efficiency of your home, consider a recent study conducted by the University of North Carolina. This study found that the risk of defaulting on a mortgage is 32% lower for homeowners who live in energy-efficient homes.

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