By Mary Lamson
“You have to spend money to make money,” or so the old adage says.
In terms of energy efficiency, investing in the home—insulation, efficient heating systems, heat pumps and renewables—is a sure way to make money.
Many energy improvements pay for themselves in five years, typically. After five years the investment earns the homeowner money in the form of heating fuel not burned.
“Many of us can’t afford NOT to make the improvements,” said Ludy Biddle director of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont. “Saving $1,000 on heating makes a big difference in a family’s household budget.”
The upfront cost to make the improvements is a barrier for some, but it doesn’t have to be.
NeighborWorks of Western Vermont has financing to make energy improvements affordable, and designed their energy loan to be easy.
“Our loan is simple, unsecured, and statewide,” said Biddle. “Homeowners can borrow up to $15,000 at a low interest rate and pay it back over ten years or sooner if they wish.” Amounts over $15,000 are also possible with a secured loan.
Vermont homeowners of any income, or working with any contractor, can apply for a NeighborWorks energy loan.
NeighborWorks also offers on-bill repayment in partnership with Green Mountain Power. GMP customers anywhere in Vermont are able to repay their NeighborWorks energy loan though their regular electricity bill, with no separate bill necessary.
“It’s one less thing to think about,” said Biddle of on-bill repayment, “One less check to write and one less stamp to find.”
NeighborWorks is talking with other electric companies in Vermont about on-bill repayment for customers.
What makes NeighborWorks different is their nonprofit mission: to keep their customer’s best interest at heart and to find solutions that work for their customer.
Another thing that sets NeighborWorks apart is their one-stop-shop model.
“Customers can come to us for anything,” said Biddle. “Need a loan? We can help. Need an energy audit? We can do that, too. In fact, we have programs for people at all points in the home ownership spectrum: home buyer education classes, realty, lending, home repair, even foreclosure help.”
NeighborWorks’ H.E.A.T. Squad is their program for homeowners who want to address the efficiency of their home. Homeowners can get energy audits through NeighborWorks H.E.A.T. Squad for only $100. Audits are professional and certified, and NeighborWorks customers are eligible for incentives from Efficiency Vermont, up to $2,000.
Audits are performed by a Building Performance Institute-certified professional. The auditor works for NeighborWorks; his or her job is to provide unbiased advice and support, and suggest solutions that make sense for the homeowner.
NeighborWorks will help the homeowner find a reliable contractor if the homeowner does not already have one they prefer. Some homeowners pay for the improvements out-of-pocket, some tap into their home’s equity, and others choose NeighborWorks lending.
“Our customers feel confident that they were given the best advice and were provided the best solutions for their families and lifestyles,” said Biddle.
NeighborWorks™ is the national network of agencies that assist in creating and keeping affordable housing. The program nationally is supported by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is a nonprofit one-stop-shop based in West Rutland. Their programs include lending, realty home repair and energy efficiency, home buyer education and more. Call 1-877-205-1147 or visit nwwvt.org for more.