HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new statewide initiative to promote energy conservation and reduce home heating bills has been unveiled in Pennsylvania by State Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. Under Casey's plan, the state's Treasury Department will invest up to $20 million to help homeowners throughout Pennsylvania borrow money at low interest rates to purchase energy efficient heating systems and to make other Energy Star improvements to their homes to conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs.

"This program helps families gain control of their energy costs in the face of skyrocketing fuel bills," Casey said. "It's a phenomenal opportunity for middle-class homeowners who want to reduce their fuel costs, but who are unable to get a home equity loan or charge a $5,000 furnace on a high-interest credit card."

Casey's $20 million investment in the Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (KeystoneHELP) will provide working capital for AFC First Financial Corporation of Allentown to offer unsecured loans with a 10-year repayment period at 7.99 percent interest to finance the purchase of Energy Star heating and cooling systems or other energy-efficient products. Low-income homeowners will be able to obtain loans at an even lower rate of 5.99 percent interest.

"Obviously some homeowners may have access to cash or loans with a lower interest rate," Casey said. "But for those who don't, KeystoneHELP offers a much better deal for the purchase of Energy Star equipment than most consumer lenders, credit cards, and home improvement stores."

Energy Star is a voluntary program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that identifies and promotes energy-efficient products to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Star-designated products meet strict energy guidelines set by the EPA and DOE. These products deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money.

"In 2005, the average household will have spent nearly $1,900 on home energy bills. The KeystoneHELP program provides a win-win opportunity for Pennsylvanians. Not only are they able to make immediate and affordable energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, they will continue to realize the economic benefits of these upgrades through lower utility bills in the future," said Ellen D. Lutz, director, U.S. Department of Energy Mid-Atlantic Regional Office.

Examples of Energy Star purchases and home improvements that are eligible for KeystoneHELP loans include: furnaces and boilers, heat pumps, thermostats and controls, central and window air conditioning units, dehumidifiers, ventilation systems, insulation, siding, windows, skylights, doors, ceiling fans, and lighting equipment and controls.

For more information, visit www.keystonehelp.com.

Publication date: 01/23/2006