More U.S. Homeowners to Enjoy Energy Efficiency Benefits Thanks to New Programs Providing Reliable Home Energy Information, Qualified Workers, Long-Term Financing | Alliance to Save Energy

More U.S. Homeowners to Enjoy Energy Efficiency Benefits Thanks to New Programs Providing Reliable Home Energy Information, Qualified Workers, Long-Term Financing

Release Date: Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Washington, D.C., November 9, 2010 – The Alliance to Save Energy today applauded Vice President Biden’s announcement of a three-pronged federal initiative designed to create green jobs in the home improvement field while helping U.S. homeowners save money through energy efficiency.

The two-year pilot program is designed to overcome several barriers that have hindered development of a strong home energy retrofit market: lack of information about a home’s energy use and the benefits of energy efficiency upgrades; uncertainty about the qualifications of workers in the home energy field; and lack of financing for sometimes costly energy efficiency measures.

Under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Home Energy Score pilot program, homeowners will be able to get straightforward, reliable information about their home’s energy use. 

Trained and certified contractors will use a standardized assessment tool developed by DOE and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to score a home’s energy use on a scale of 1-10, estimate how much money could be saved by making energy retrofits and generate a customized list of recommended improvements with the annual savings and estimated payback time for each one.

DOE said the Home Energy Score initially will be tested with local government, utility and nonprofit partners in 10 pilot communities across the country, located in both urban and rural areas and with a wide range of climates.

Another key feature of the program is that low-interest loans of up to $25,000 will be available through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s new PowerSaver loan program. Federally insured loans for energy efficiency upgrades will be available for terms of up to 15 years.

Homeowners will be able to use the loans to finance the home improvements of their choice – including insulation, duct sealing and efficient doors, windows, HVAC systems and water heaters – based on a list of proven, cost-effective measure developed by FHA and DOE. 

FHA says PowerSaver interest rates will be as low as or lower than those associated with comparable financing options, and that the federal insurance will make the PowerSaver loans widely available. FHA is now seeking participating lenders for the pilot program and hopes to announce them, and the 10 eligible communities, early next year. 

The third component of the three-part initiative, also announced today by DOE, is development of a uniform set of national guidelines for training residential retrofit workers.  DOE said the guidelines are intended to give consumers confidence that work is being completed correctly and generating the expected savings.

“Reducing monthly utility bills is still one of the best ways to trim a household budget,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “The new initiatives announced today by Vice President Biden – which include the all-important element of widely-available financing – will help U.S. homeowners understand how to save energy in their homes while making those home improvements affordable.

“Until today,” Callahan continued, “no single major program has been able to break down the barriers to home energy retrofits by providing up-front information and financing to homeowners.”

The test phase will gauge how homeowners respond to the program and whether the information they receive encourages them to get energy improvements done on their homes. After the pilot tests conclude in late spring 2011, DOE expects to launch the Home Energy Score nationally later next year, based on the findings from the initial programs.