What is a "Green Homeowner"?
A green homeowner is someone who recognizes that importance that fighting climate change at home through residential energy efficiency and renewable energy have for cutting carbon emissions. More here. Green homeowners know that reducing carbon emissions is an ongoing project at home, and we endeavor to learn from each other and teach others what we have learned and done.
Furthermore, a green homeowner knows that the main way to cut carbon emissions is not only to upgrade one's own home, but to encourage and help others do the same! Some people may own a home and not sure where to start, others are hoping to buy a home and make it a green home. Green homeowners want others to succeed, grow and learn together with us all.
How will we create more "Green Homeowners"?
Not enough people have rolled back their home's carbon emissions, either because they don't know how or because it is expensive, how will we make it easier for others to join us?
While people can cut emissions in small ways, such as using LED lightbulbs, major upgrades are needed. And if we rely only on those who can afford things like solar panels out of pocket, then we are out of luck.
Instead, we are working to ensure broad access to fair green financing. To ensure all people are able to get access to fair, low-interest financing to pay for the major energy saving upgrades that reduce utility bills (electric, natural gas, propane, water, sewer, etc.).
What do we consider fair? Financing whose terms allow it so major energy-saving upgrades save more on one's utility bills than they cost to pay back, making them in effect "no cost". Only when this is possible and widely available to people of all geographies and incomes can we truly roll back carbon emissions to scale and equitably.
We at Green Homeowners United help people identify what upgrades save more than they cost, and how you too can sign up for fair green financing to do so.
What are examples of fair green financing?
The goal of green financing where the cost is outweighed by the savings sounds great, but is it possible?
Yes! It is already happening throughout the country, but not enough is being done to promote it and expand it.
First, it is important to note, not all energy upgrades are cost effective regardless of the financing terms. If your house is completely covered by tall trees, solar panels are probably not for you. Installing a geothermal system on a quarter-acre lot in Milwaukee County will probably not pay for itself anytime soon. The latest high-efficiency toilet won't reduce utility bills too much if you have well water and a septic system.
But substantial energy savings are possible in many homes! Whether it is air sealing older homes, updating electric water heaters to be more efficient or adding solar where it is sunny, we can cut carbon emissions and save money doing so.
-- Many Wisconsin banks are offering Green Mortgages, where homeowners and home buyers can buy or refinance and access affordable terms to finance large energy upgrades at low interest rates for up to 30 years (or less if desired). Click here to learn more or click here to help us encourage more banks & credit unions to offer this!
-- Some utility companies, like Vernon Electric Cooperative and many others in outside of Wisconsin are offering programs known as "on-bill financing", where utility companies pay for upgrades and share in the savings generated from them right on your bill! Learn more about the idea of "on-bill financing" and "Pay As You Save (PAYS)" here.
-- The City of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, offers a 0% interest home improvement loan that can include energy efficiency and renewable upgrades for homes in the city older than 1970. Click here for more.
Can we do more? Absolutely! We believe every bank and credit union should be offering green mortgages for new homebuyers and those refinancing alike. We believe all utilities (public, private & cooperative) should offer On-Bill Financing/Pay-As-You-Save programs (in places like Hawaii and New York they already are!). Municipalities and states could make it more available to more residents fairly (like Minnesota's Center for Energy and Environment does). There's a lot we can do.
The members, supporters and residential energy efficiency workers that make up Green Homeowners United will gladly stand with any effort to broaden this benefit to working people and the planet. Just give us a call.
What services does Green Homeowners United offer?
Green Homeowners United works with homeowners, homebuyers and those that work and advocate for them, such as real estate agents and nonprofits, to determine how a property can not only reduce its carbon emissions and bills, but do so with fair green financing.
We work with you to determine what method of fair green financing might be available to you, and examine the property for opportunities to reduce heat loss, electricity waste, air leakage, excess water consumption and renewable energy opportunity.
Through our sophisticated economic modeling and energy-efficiency expertise, we will create a plan together with you and advocate for you with financial institutions and contractors to ensure the projects get done. Our major goal: we are dedicated to working with you on projects that save more than they cost, or we'll help you find someone else. We believe we must work with all those who thought fighting climate change at home was out of reach and showing them that it is in fact possible and affordable.
Green Homeowners United will help with:
Air sealing and improving insulation
High efficiency plumbing and other water savings upgrades
Solar panel assessment and installation
Electricity saving enhancements and efficiencies
And we'll not only help ensure they are installed effectively, we'll make sure you understand WHY they matter, so you can show others how they too can fight climate change at home.
How Green Homeowners United came to be
In 2019, after years of organizing and meeting people in towns large and small throughout Wisconsin, the nonprofit advocacy group "Citizen Action of Wisconsin" helped convince a number of financial institutions to create fair green financing programs as a goal of reducing energy burden for moderate income families, create jobs in residential energy construction, and significantly roll back carbon emissions. This project, led by organizer and economist Kevin Kane, worked with former papermill workers around Wausau, farmers outside Viroqua and housing advocates in Milwaukee (to name a few) to encourage large institutions such as Associated Bank to begin offering green home upgrade programs.
Kevin became the first homeowner in Wisconsin to test such a program, and has been able to scale back his home's carbon emissions with the help of solar panels, heat pump water heater, air sealing, insulation and a lot more.
Just before COVID-19 hit, Citizen Action of Wisconsin sought to train others in how to do the same. How to identify what upgrades were cost effective and would cut carbon, how to work with local contractors and how to have the banks pay for the upgrades. Thanks to solar experts such as Dairyland Energy in Butler, Eland Electric in Green Bay, and Olson Solar in La Crosse; insulation experts such as Duerst Insulation Technicians in Dane and Burbach Insulation in New Berlin; energy auditors such as Rivercity Woodworking in Milwaukee and AA Powerplant Systems & Equipment in La Crosse; unions such as IBEW local 14 in Fall Creek/La Crosse and Steamfitters local 601 in Milwaukee; and plumbers such as Castleman & Sons in Franklin we were able to help people significantly cut back their carbon emissions and utility bills from Rice Lake to Bailey's Harbor, Eau Claire to Milwaukee and more!
Toward the end of 2020, Green Homeowners United was launched as its own organization dedicated to helping homeowners identify the most effective energy & water efficiency upgrades, understand renewable options, access the fair financial means to ensure these projects can occur, and directly help upgrade homes to cut carbon and save on utility bills.
Lenders Offering Green Mortgages
Which lenders offer Green Mortgages in Wisconsin?
Any lender that works with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA or VA can offer a green mortgage program quickly and easily. If your lender is not on this list and would like to be, we can help them set up a green mortgage program. If your lender does offer a green mortgage and isn't on this list, send us a message at Kevin@greenhomeownersunited.com and we'll add them!
Lenders currently offering Green Mortgages*
Associated Bank: offers the Fannie Mae Homestyle Energy mortgage (30 year terms only) for home purchase or refinance. Mortgage can include up to $3,500 in energy efficiency improvements (or more with an energy assessment), plus the cost of photovoltaic solar panels, at no additional fee or interest rate than a conventional no-cash-out mortgage.
Contact: Terrence Fitch at 414-902-2701 or Terrence.Fitch@associatedbank.com
GreenPenny: offers the Freddie Mac GreenCHOICE mortgage (all terms) for home purchase or refinance. Mortgage can include up to $6,500 in energy efficiency improvements (or more with an energy assessment), plus the cost of photovoltaic solar panels, at no additional fee or interest rate than a conventional no-cash-out mortgage.
Contact: Becky Mitchell at 563-387-5213 or Bmitchell@greenpenny.com
Merchants Bank: offers the Fannie Mae Homestyle Energy mortgage (all terms) for home purchase or refinance. Mortgage can include up to $3,500 in energy efficiency improvements (or more with an energy assessment), plus the cost of photovoltaic solar panels, at no additional fee or interest rate than a conventional no-cash-out mortgage.
Contact: Tina Mueller at 608-779-8294 or TMMueller@merchantsbank.com
One Community Bank: offers the Freddie Mac GreenCHOICE mortgage (all terms) for home purchase or refinance. Mortgage can include up to $6,500 in energy efficiency improvements (or more with an energy assessment), plus the cost of photovoltaic solar panels, at no additional fee or interest rate than a conventional no-cash-out mortgage.
Contact: Dawn Andersen at 608-835-3168, firstname.lastname@example.org
Evergreen Credit Union: will be offering a green mortgage program. Details and contact person to be added once fully available. NOTE: only available in the 5 counties of Northeast Wisconsin served by Evergreen CU.
First Citizens Bank: will be offering a green mortgage program. Details and contact person to be added once fully available.
Want help navigating what energy improvements are worth including in a green mortgage? Want guidance on how to navigate the green mortgage program, or to determine if it is for you or not? Green Homeowners United can help!
Click here to sign up for an energy assessment and we'll guide you on which improvements are worth considering and how to navigate the lending options.
Click here to schedule a 1-1 phone call with us to answer any questions you have!