Fitchburg FCU Helps Members Fund Energy-Wise Home Projects
CU Times Staff Reporter
FITCHBURG, Mass. -- Good service ideas do not always necessarily need to be new ones.
Barbara Goodwin, president/CEO of Fitchburg Federal Credit Union, said a member informed her that a program the credit union had been offering 10 years ago was being resurrected at other financial institutions.
The service, called the HEAT loan program, was currently being offered through a partnership with MassSAVE, a program financed and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources. It offers local homeowners the opportunity to obtain a 0% APR loan of up to $10,000 for the installation of qualified, energy efficiency projects.
Goodwin said Fitchburg offered a similar program 10 years ago that was subsidized by oil companies and the only difference is that the HEAT loan program is now being subsidized by electric companies.
"We're always trying to come up with ways to save energy," Goodwin said. "I don't know how anyone is going to make it through this winter with the oil prices."
After a member had informed Goodwin that the HEAT loan program was being offered again, Goodwin researched the program and got connected with MassSAVE to make it available to her members. MassSAVE reimburses Fitchburg for the interest cost so that they can offer the loan to members with no interest. Projects cannot be do-it-yourself installations and can include air and duct sealing; insulations for attics, walls and basement ceilings; domestic hot water systems; high-efficiency heating systems; and installation of Energy Star replacement windows.
"I have three or four other credit union friends that are looking into it across the state," Goodwin said. "It seems like a no brainer to me."
In order to qualify for the program a member must have a current electric account with National Grid, NStar, Western Mass Electric, Fitchburg Gas and Light or Cape Light Company. A member also needs to request a MassSAVE energy audit of the property where the project is planned. Once the audit is performed and the utility determines whether the project qualifies for the program the member can then come to Fitchburg to get the loan approved.
"We have four or five members now that are in the process of waiting for the energy audit," Goodwin said. "We've just had the program on our Web site and we have a newsletter advertising it that will go out soon."
Goodwin said she encourages members interested in the program to start the process as soon as possible as it could take two or three months for the energy audit to take place.
At the credit union's board meeting being held this week, Goodwin said she planned to propose another measure to help members lower costs. This time the program would allow members to obtain oil at a fixed price.
"The loan will have to be paid back within the year and the member will have to go through the same process the following year, but we want to save them some money if we can."
Goodwin said that she expects the board to approve the proposal.
"I see no reason why it won't be approved our credit union is always look for new ways to help out our members."