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Rebates helped more than 2,000 homeowners make energy-saving repairs

April 13, 2011

Rebates helped more than 2,000 homeowners make energy-saving repairs

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rebates Helped More Than 2,000 Homeowners Make Energy-Saving Repairs at Reduced Cost, Created Work in Depressed Residential Construction Sector

(ST. PAUL, MN) One of the state's most successful energy-saving rebate programs helped 2,200 Minnesota homeowners make energy-saving upgrades to their homes and generated much-needed work for the depressed residential construction sector.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources and Minnesota Housing announced today that nearly 2,200 homeowners benefitted from the Energy Saver Rebate, a rebate for high-efficiency mechanical systems plus insulation and windows that was funded with federal stimulus dollars and administered by the state. It provided a one-of-a-kind incentive for homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. The program closed late last year after all the funds were reserved and most of the rebates have been paid out.

"This program is a shining example of how well-designed energy programs can help Minnesota residents while improving the environment, local economy and job opportunities" said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.

More than $24 million in energy-saving improvements have been made, spurred by more than $7 million in Energy Saver Rebates.  Homeowners also estimate leveraging more than $1 million in total utility rebates and $3 million in federal tax credits.

The residential construction sector has also benefitted from the increased activity.  More than 60,000 labor hours have been generated as a result of the energy-efficient home improvements, according to Minnesota Housing. The residential construction and remodeling industry suffered some of the greatest job losses as a result of the recession. 

Many homeowners are reluctant to replace worn-out mechanical systems such as furnaces due to the major financial investment necessary for new systems. However, the Energy Saver Rebate helped many homeowners bridge that financial gap.

Mary Tingerthal, Minnesota Housing Commissioner, reports that nearly 2,200 households received an average rebate of $3,200. "Many of these homeowners would not have been able to afford a new energy efficient furnace, insulation, or windows without these rebates. They were critical to the success of the program and proved to be a great way to deliver stimulus funding directly to homeowners," Tingerthal said. 

Maureen Nelson of Faribault had been thinking about replacing her furnace and air conditioner for some time, but it was too large of an expense for her to justify. Last fall, a local contractor, Streitz Heating and Cooling Inc., inspected Nelson's furnace found a cracked heat exchanger. The contractor red-tagged the furnace and told Nelson that it probably would not last another heating season.

Nelson did not meet income eligibility guidelines to qualify for the state weatherization program, which would have enabled her to get a new furnace, but she was given a much-needed referral. The staff at her local weatherization office directed her to Minnesota Housing to apply for a loan and an Energy Saver Rebate. She secured financing and rebates for a 95 percent efficient furnace and a 16 SEER-rated air conditioner.

"If not for this rebate program, I might have had to wait another year to replace the furnace," Nelson said. Not only was Nelson able to obtain a state rebate, she also combined other financial incentives to maximize savings. She received a utility rebate for the furnace and expects a rebate for the air conditioner upon testing of the unit this spring.

1st United Bank in Faribault processed Nelson's loan and rebate. One of several participating lenders, 1st United Bank, processed a total of 68 loans for the Fix-up Fund loan and Energy Saver Rebate. The rebate program provided the bank a unique opportunity to attract both existing and prospective customers.

Homeowners were eligible to receive up to a 35 percent rebate to a maximum of $10,000 for energy-saving improvements.  To be eligible for the rebate, homeowners first had to secure financing through a Minnesota Housing Fix-up Fund loan. The Fix-up Fund is a home improvement program that offers affordable, fixed-rate loans to eligible homeowners to make livability, accessibility, or energy efficiency improvements.

For more information about energy efficiency improvements, visit the Division of Energy Resources website www.energy.mn.gov .