Keystone HELP Energy Efficiency Loan Program Expanded For Homeowners
Pennsylvania homeowners who want to cut their heating and cooling bills in half now have a new, affordable method for financing clean geothermal heat pump systems, said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger and Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord.
The officials said a new Keystone Home Energy Loan Program option offers low-interest loans that are combined with companion loans given in anticipation of federal tax credits for fuel-conserving geothermal systems.
Secretary Hanger and Treasurer McCord made the announcement while visiting the home of Peter and Laurel Hartwell, who are using Cleona-based G.F. Bowman Inc. to install a geothermal heat pump system.
The program is made possible with $5 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and could help as many as 750 homeowners purchase geothermal systems. Installing the systems will create hundreds of jobs for contractors like G.F. Bowman.
"Geothermal really is one of the great, largely untapped forms of renewable energy that is available to us," said Secretary Hanger. "Fortunately, more consumers are recognizing this and are making the smart decision to put geothermal systems in their homes. This program will make sure more families have access to this clean, money-saving technology by offering new financing options. That's good news for consumers, our economy and our environment."
The Secretary added that by taking advantage of these federal and state incentives, geothermal systems can pay for themselves within only five to 10 years.
"Keystone HELP is a triple winner: families can make energy efficiency improvements to their homes that save money and reduce energy use, the commonwealth earns a secure return, and the program creates good-paying, much-needed jobs for local installers, contractors, and manufacturers," Treasurer McCord said. "Less pollution, lower costs, and more jobs-good work on three fronts."
Under the new geothermal loan program, qualifying homeowners can take advantage of an unsecured 4.99 percent loan for up to $15,000 with a term of up to 10 years. McCord noted that homeowners can also elect to take an optional "tax credit anticipation loan" equal to the expected 30-percent federal tax credit up to a maximum of $10,000. The HELP program will make the first 12 monthly payments of the tax credit anticipation loan and homeowners can use the tax credit they receive to pay the remainder of the loan without any prepayment penalties.
Other special financing is available to homeowners who install a geothermal heat pump system as part of a comprehensive "whole house" improvement project recommended through a certified energy audit. In this case, qualifying homeowners can obtain a secured Keystone HELP loan for up to $35,000 with rates as low as 2.875 percent.
All work financed through Keystone HELP must be completed by a certified local contractor.
"This program is another great example of how the federal stimulus program is helping us build a green economy in Pennsylvania while encouraging private investment and putting people to work," said Secretary Hanger. "To date, the federal stimulus has directed more than $136 million to our state for clean energy projects like wind and solar, plus another $253 million to help consumers save money by weatherizing their homes. And we've leveraged those funds to attract about $1 billion in private investment.
"These are good investments in our economy that will pay dividends for decades to come, not only through lower utility bills, but also through cleaner air and cleaner water."
Created in 2006 by the Pennsylvania Treasury and AFC First Financial Corp. of Allentown, Keystone HELP offers affordable energy efficiency financing options, including rebates and low-interest loans, enabling homeowners to purchase and install energy efficient equipment or undertake improvements to cut energy use.
Keystone HELP began offering even lower rate loans in 2009, when Treasury partnered with DEP to expand the program's impact by using funds provided under Pennsylvania's 2008 Alternative Energy Investment Act.
Keystone HELP has helped more than 7,000 homeowners finance more than $58 million in money-saving home improvements.
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