Making Energy Retrofits Affordable

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Photo courtesy of EESI

 

One of the best ways to save big money on your electricity bill is to get an energy retrofit for your home. Using special tools, an energy auditor can help you determine where your house needs better insulation, new windows or efficient appliances, among other things.

Implementing such changes can help people save more than 30% on their electricity bills -- but the upfront cost of such changes deters many homeowners from taking the first step.

That’s why organizations like the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) are working to advance wallet-friendly ways to make your home more energy efficient—and to make these options more widely available.

South Carolina’s Help My House pilot illustrates the great benefits of these programs. Launched in 2011 by South Carolina’s co-ops with policy and technical assistance from EESI, Help My House provides low-interest loans to homeowners who want an energy retrofit. The payback is big: the average participating home has saved 34% in energy costs and is expected to save a net of more than $8,500 over 15 years.

One resident, Andrea Jones, has sung the praises of the Help My House program to friends and neighbors since work was completed in early 2012 on her doublewide manufactured home.

The contractor for the Jones family, Carolina Green Energy Systems, repaired and installed new ductwork, blew 27 bags of insulation into the attic, patched holes under the home and replaced the original electric furnace and air conditioning units with a high efficiency heat pump.

The total cost of these upgrades was $8,400. Before Help My House, the Joneses were routinely paying monthly electric bills of $500 to $700 for their home, a 2006 model.

“Our December 2010 bill was $779,” said Jones. “Since the work was finished, our highest bill was $277.”

Those substantial monthly savings will result in a return on investment in just two and a half years. The savings on her electric bill have come at a very good time for Jones. She has been out of work since her mother’s death. She also recently underwent surgery, and she shares the home with her two young children, ages 2 and 8.

GTMD_logo_rgb-WEBShe says not only do the energy savings easily cover the $69 per-month loan payments added to her electric bill to pay for the retrofit, but the house is also more comfortable and even seems like a healthier place to live.

What makes Help My House unique is its use of what’s called on-bill financing. Rather than taking out a loan from a bank, participants pay back the cost of the retrofits through their electric bills.

“You save enough to more than pay for the work. It doesn’t make sense to me that anybody wouldn’t do it,” said John Norsworthy, another participant who is now paying between $150-$200 less per month on his bills, thanks to his home retrofit.

 

EESI is working to make on-bill financing more widely available in South Carolina and across the country. Legislation in the Farm Bill that assists electric co-ops in offering or expanding energy efficiency programs passed the Senate twice, in both 2012 and 2013. The Department of Agriculture is also working to roll out loan funds to help electric co-ops make these programs more available. On-bill financing has worked in New Hampshire, California, Oregon, Indiana, South Carolina and Kansas.

Even if your utility doesn’t offer a program like Help My House, you can still save money over time by getting an energy retrofit. Get started by visiting the Alliance to Save Energy’s Home Energy Assessment page or the Department of Energy’s Professional Home Energy Audits page.

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