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An Affordable Way to Achieve Energy Independence

Residential Home with Solar Panels

Energy efficiency projects can cost a lot. But they save a lot over time. The trick is to eliminate the financial impact on the front end by financing the project with a low-interest loan. If you can do that, and put your energy savings toward the loan payoff, you can experience no increase in your monthly payments. And once you pay off your loan, all your energy savings are money in the bank. How does it work? Here is how two Vermonters achieved energy efficiency without losing their shirt.


Energy Improvement Loan Makes “Green” More Affordable

Deane and Linda Dudley have been residents of Jericho, Vermont for nearly 40 years. In June of 2015, the couple invested in a solar photovoltaic array through SunCommon, a Vermont-based company that develops affordable solar systems.

The total price of the system came in at just under $42,000. The Dudleys applied for and received a 30% federal tax credit on the full installation cost in the amount of $12,703. That left them with a payoff amount of $29,140, which was more than they could afford to pay in one lump sum.

With a referral from SunCommon, Deane and Linda contacted a VSECU loan officer, who emailed an application for an Energy Improvement Loan within the day. “I was immediately approved for a 12-year loan at a remarkably low-interest rate,” says Deane.

Deane’s solar system was designed to generate enough solar to cover his monthly electric bill during the summer months and garner enough credits with Green Mountain Power to cover all (or nearly all) of his electric costs during winter. The money Deane and Linda historically put toward electricity now covers most of their loan payment.

According to Deane, “The warranty for the solar system is 25 years,” which means it will likely outlive the couple. After their payment schedule ends in 12 years, they will generate all (or close to all) of their own electricity. “I should never have to pay GMP again,” says Deane “the house is almost net zero.”


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Disaster Averted with the Heat Saver Loan Program

Jamison Ervin and Alan Pierce are passionate about renewable energy. Over the years, they have incrementally improved the energy efficiency of their Waterbury home with solar photovoltaics, a solar hot water system, and energy efficient lighting and appliances.

In 2013, Sisler Builders conducted an energy audit on their home that revealed excessive heat loss through their walkout basement’s exposed and uninsulated concrete walls. They dug deeper and quickly uncovered additional issues, including rotting siding and degraded insulation. When the final costs were tallied, Jamison and Alan were certain that they would have to give up on the project.

This spring, the couple attended an energy fair sponsored by their local energy action group, Waterbury LEAP. There, they learned about the Heat Saver Loan Program, which finances up to $35,000 of home energy efficiency improvements. VSECU is a participating lender for the Heat Saver Loan program, which is sponsored by a grant from Vermont Public Service Department, in partnership with Efficiency Vermont and Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity (VLITE). Sisler Builders supplied them with the program form and, according to Jamison, “we filled it out, and within a matter of days, our contractor had a check for $35,000.”

The Heat Saver Loan helped finance Jamison and Alan’s project, which included stripping out the degraded wall insulation and replacing it with dense pack insulation, fully insulating the basement, and replacing the siding. According to Jamison, “the house is quieter, the basement is dryer, and when we close the windows, the house maintains its temperature well.”

“The Heat Saver Loan enabled us to make necessary improvements to make our house more efficient,” says Jamison. “The last step is putting in a cold-climate air-source heat pump this fall – with that, and a few more solar panels, we’ll have a completely net zero home.”


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About Laurie Fielder

Laurie directs VSECU’s VGreen energy savings loan program. Previously, she worked for the weatherization program at the Central Vermont Community Action Council (now Capstone), and for a successful residential solar installer. She enjoys helping Vermonters learn about efficiency and renewable financing options that maximize the savings of these smart investments. She lives in Woodbury with her family and enjoys the outdoors, walking the dog, and tackling home improvement projects.
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