True Tales: An EnergyWorks Examination, Pt. 5

It's been about a month since the last installment of True Tales, so it's high time we get serious and talk about deciding which of the energy audit recommendations to implement, as well as how to pay for them.  Let's start with the least painful part: getting work estimates.

Last week, Craig Rogers, an energy consultant from The Mark Group, came to my house to do a walkthrough and review the energy audit report recommendations. Craig first confirmed that my energy audit was done thoroughly and provided appropriate recommendations. (Thanks, Eric!  You're the best!) Craig was very knowledgeable and took time to explain to me things like stack effect and other reasons why my house is uncomfortable in winter and summer temperature extremes.  We spent a little under an hour walking through the house, during which time Craig took copious notes and explained some of the cost-benefit trade-offs of certain energy efficiency projects.

The walkthrough confirmed a couple of important items that I first mentioned in Part 4.  First, if a contractor is going to do any basement air-sealing, I must get my hot water heater replaced first because it failed the spillage test.  Second, the abundance of knob and tube (K&T) wiring in my house may render it prohibitively expensive to insulate the attic, as I must have the K&T removed before the attic can be insulated.  To add insult to injury, a preliminary look at the EnergyWorks financing guidelines seems to indicate that K&T remediation wouldn't qualify for a low-interest loan.  

This is especially vexing to me, as I was convinced that insulating my attic would improve my comfort level substantially.  But don't you worry—I'm trying not to get too down about it until I've received the final estimate from The Mark Group.  On the bright side, Craig advised me that if I had to prioritize projects because of cost or time constraints, he would recommend I tackle air sealing the basement first, anyway.

So let's talk about how I'm going to pay for these projects, shall we? 

EnergyWorks loans are available through the Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (HELP), which is administered through a Lehigh Valley-based bank, AFC First Financial.  To start the loan process, you need to fill out an application on the KeystoneHELP website.  They'll check your credit score and make sure that your household income is below $150,000. Loans from $1,000 to $15,000 are available with a 10-year payback and no penalty for pre-payment.

The interest rate on the loan is dependent on the number of Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) you plan to undertake.  Each measure (such as insulating and attic or installing a programmable thermostat) is worth a certain number of points, and the points are scored on Keystone HELP's CAPP Scorecard.  The total number of points tells you which interest rate you're eligible for.

Now, this next part is important.  On June 1, 2011, the number of points you will need to receive the preferential interest rate of 0.99% increases from 5 points to 10 points, which means that you have to undertake a lot more work to qualify for the better rate.  From June 1 on, if you only plan to do work totaling 5 to 9 points, the interest rate is 2.99%.  So it's a good idea to get that energy audit done now and submit the application for the work before the end of May.

As for me, without doing the attic insulation work, I'm a little nervous that I won't be able to reach even the 5 point cut-off.  Check back next time to see if I'll make it and learn what it's all going to cost.