Homeowners have new choices to fund energy, water improvements

Choices, choices. Sonoma County homeowners seeking to add a solar energy system, replace that old furnace or install artificial turf soon will have an array of options to fund the improvements.The county is witnessing a proliferation of government-sponsored programs that offer to finance various energy- and water-efficiency projects. But figuring out which option is best can be difficult.
Many homeowners already know about the 6-year-old Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, or SCEIP, which is available in each of the county’s nine cities and the unincorporated area. For little money down, the county-sponsored effort provides financing for various projects, with costs added to the homeowners’ property tax bills. Approved contractors complete the work, and owners pay back the borrowed funds over periods of 10 or 20 years with an annual interest rate of 7 percent.
Now three more separate programs are joining SCEIP to compete for residential projects, and a fourth offers financing solely for commercial work. Fees vary and interest rates range from just under 7 percent for a five-year loan to more than 8 percent for a 20-year loan.
However, none of the new residential programs currently are available throughout the county, as SCEIP is. For example, two new programs are taking applications today in Sebastopol and one is available in Windsor and Petaluma. None are yet available in Santa Rosa, though that may change this summer. Program officials said they hope to eventually operate countywide, but that depends on getting approval from each city council.
Sound complicated? Homeowners thinking about improvement projects first may benefit by contacting the Sonoma County Energy Independence Office, the government office that is gearing up to provide consumer information on the emerging marketplace.
“We’ll steer them to whatever resources we know of,” said Jane Elias, a community program coordinator for the county’s energy efficiency efforts.
Read more at: Homeowners face dizzying new choices to fund energy, | The Press Democrat

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