Austin Energy widens eligibility, retools home appliance program

Austin Energy has revamped its home energy efficiency program to offer rebates and loans to people with varying socioeconomic backgrounds.


Austin Energy’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program provides homeowners with an opportunity to take out low-interest loans or receive partial refunds for upgrading equipment in their home that will allow more efficient energy use.


Chris Strand, owner of Stan’s Heating and Air Conditioning, was part of an Austin Energy task force that sought to make the program more accessible to Austin’s low-income residents.


“Sometimes, the people that need it the most can’t afford to do it,” Strand said. He said the task force recommended using 2008 federal stimulus funds to offer lower interest rates on loans and extend them to people with lower credit scores.


A current 3.99 percent interest rate on loans provides participants in the program with a more cost-effective option than was previously available, Strand said. The minimum credit score needed to apply for a loan was previously 720 and has been reduced to 600 through the program.


In addition to receiving a loan, homeowners can also receive a rebate of up to 40 percent of the total cost of the upgrade. Applicants must use a registered contractor to qualify for the incentives. More than 40 contractors are registered for the program. Among the possible improvements through the program are installing a new central air conditioner or heat pump, air-sealing leaky ducts and installing solar shading screens on windows.


Denise Kuehn, Austin Energy’s director of energy efficiency services, said the initiative is aimed at various sectors of the population.


“[Austin Energy is] really trying to broaden support of energy efficiency throughout the community,” Kuehn said.

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