"Help My House" is an energy efficiency program operated by Tri-County electric co-op. Through the program, residential energy efficiency improvements are financed with low-cost loans that are repaid through the participating member’s electric bills (a process known as “on-bill financing”). This allows individual members to improve their home with no upfront costs and to save money even while repaying the loan. “Help My House” was designed to address the special challenges and opportunities facing rural communities to save energy, cut household utility bills, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all while supporting high-skilled jobs and keeping more dollars in the local economy.
TCE member Linda Butler was one of seven South Carolina co-op members selected for the trial Help My House program in 2011. Before energy efficiency improvements were made to her St. Matthews home, she had monthly power bills as high as $800. After Help My House? “The highest I’ve had was $200 or so,” says Butler, who recommends Help My House to fellow members. “Oh yeah!” she says.
Launched in 2011 as a pilot program, Help My House lives on as the S.C. electric cooperatives’ unique program model for making existing homes more energy efficient. Zero-down, low- interest lending from their local co-op helps homeowners save energy and money, make their house more comfortable, and reduce their carbon footprints.
Help My House is now offered by your local electric co-op, a trusted energy partner that advocates for its participating member-owners throughout the process. The co-op identifies and authorizes local contractors to do the work and ensures the job is done right. Homeowners don’t have to make a down payment or wait for a rebate because Help My House loans cover 100 percent of the cost of the improvements. Loan payments are included with monthly power bills, and they are “bill neutral,” meaning the cost of electricity and loan payment is typically less than the previous cost of electricity alone.
Yes, Members must pay a one-time Non-Refundable $180 program fee before the Initial Energy Audit can be conducted by a certified/licensed Help My House program contractor. This fee can be added to your electric bill in 3 equal payments of $60, if the entire $180 is not paid upfront.
No, Paying the $180 fee and agreeing to have an Initial Energy Audit completed does not guarantee that your home will qualify to move to the next phase of the Help My House program. The goal of the program is to make it possible for the members to pay back the loans using the monthly savings gained from the energy efficiency upgrades. If the potential savings does not meet or exceed your monthly payment then you may not be allowed to proceed in the program.
Help My House only includes four measures that have an immediate impact on energy use and comfort and pay for themselves quickly through savings: high-efficiency HVAC, air sealing, duct sealing, and insulation. Each participating home gets some or all of those improvements.
The Help My House program is a whole house approach and we will not loan just for a new HVAC system.
The process typically begins with homeowners contacting their participating electric co-op to address concerns about their electric bills. Employees use a set of screening questions to determine if the caller’s home may qualify for Help My House. If so—and if the caller has a history of paying electric bills on time—the co-op explains the program, gauges interest, and offers to schedule a comprehensive home energy audit. If the caller agrees, a nationally certified auditor schedules a visit. The auditor tests for air and duct leaks, evaluates the condition of the heating and air conditioning systems, and checks insulation in the attic and crawl space. Computer software generates a list of recommended improvements and projects how much energy and money they will save the homeowner each month. If projected savings are greater than the estimated monthly loan payment for the improvements, the home qualifies for Help My House and a zero-down, low-interest loan from the co-ops. After a loan contract is signed, work will be done by a trained and certified contractor. After the work is finished, the energy auditor returns and performs a second audit. If the improvements meet or exceed standards and energy efficiency targets, the contractor is paid. If not, the contractor must return and make it right. Once the homeowner signs off, loan payments are added to monthly electric bills until the loan is paid off. On average, combined electric bills and loan payments are less each month than the homeowner’s previous electric bills alone. Meanwhile, the home is immediately more comfortable, more energy efficient, and has a smaller carbon footprint.
Members of Tri-County Electric who are the legal owners of their homes and lots and have proof of homeowner’s insurance.
Tri-County does not require credit checks, but does require Help My House applicants have a good track record of paying their electric bills on time.
The fixed interest rate for participants is 5 percent. Most co-ops will loan up to $12,500. Participating members have up to 10 years to pay back the loans.
No, there is no early pay off penalty
No, you must have proof of homeowner’s insurance