HERO program helps Lemoore homeowners with energy efficient upgrades

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore's Leslie Brixey shows off the energy efficient windows she had installed.
Lemoore's Leslie Brixey shows off the energy efficient windows she had installed.

A unique program to help residents improve the energy efficiency of their homes – including over 100 in Lemoore – without burgeoning the homeowners’ bank accounts, seems to have paid off - for most people.

The Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program allows residential and commercial property owners to install energy and water systems in their homes and pay for them through a variety of financing options, including a special assessment on their property bills.

In many cases payments are made through Kings County with their property taxes over time.

The Lemoore City Council adopted the HERO program by resolution at its May 6, 2014 meeting, the goal being to help homeowners make upgrades to their energy systems that could reduce utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time creating local clean-energy jobs. Lemoore, based on information supplied to The Leader, has passed the milestone of 100 homes renovated for energy efficiency, water efficiency and solar power.

Frequently Asked Questions

The HERO program was originally developed by a financing firm entitled Renovate America, which in 2010 partnered with Western Riverside County to become the first region to offer the HERO program to residents. The HERO program is now accessible to many California homeowners.

At that time of its approval, city officials designated an area within the city limits allowing homeowners to enter voluntary contractual assessments to finance the installation of permanent energy efficient improvements. The HERO program also allows property owners to finance renewable energy, energy water efficiency improvements, and electric-vehicle charging infrastructure on their property.

HERO program helps Lemoore homeowners with energy efficient upgrades

City officials have no local control over the program other than approve and inspect improvements – to make sure they meet state and local building code. “It’s business as usual for the city,” said Lemoore Public Works Director Nathan Olson. “We really don’t do anything different with the HERO program.”

He added that the improvements made are the sole decision of the homeowner and the contractor.

Under the program, many projects may qualify. Typical projects, in addition to solar systems, include heating, air cooling and ventilation systems, energy efficient windows, skylights and doors, solar thermal water heating, air sealing and weatherization, insulation, water heating, indoor energy light fixtures, and water efficiency measures.

The HERO program is one of many programs under the auspices of the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing program, which gives property owners a new way to borrow money for energy-efficient home upgrades. Approvals are based on the amount of equity in the home, and if the property is sold, any remaining balance may be legally passed on to the new owner. HERO offers low, fixed financing terms to incentivize property owners to make energy-efficient choices when making home upgrades.

And in many cases, homeowners, depending on their circumstances, can deduct the interest on HERO payments. Lemoore’s Leslie Brixey, a city resident since 2002, took advantage of the HERO program to install new energy efficient windows in her attractive home on Elderwood Lane. Was she satisfied with the work?

“They fulfilled everything they promised,” she said of Northwest Exteriors Inc., a national firm with an office in Fresno. “The workers were so great. They cleaned up after themselves, and if I had a question they explained it to me what they’re doing. It was a very good experience.”

However, she’s not as pleased with the financing options. She indicated was unable to deduct the interest portion of her payment as home mortgage interest. “No, I wish it had been (better) explained to me.”

According to the IRS, there are many popular loan programs that finance energy saving improvements through government-approved programs – like HERO. The payments on these loans may appear to be deductible real estate, but they’re not deductible. Assessments or taxes associated with a specific improvement benefitting one home aren’t deductible. However, the interest portion of your payment may be deductible as home mortgage interest.

Katie Ryan, the operations manager for Fresno’s Northwest Exteriors said her firm has done five projects in Lemoore, including Brixey’s. “We’re a “Channel” partner with the HERO program,” she said, “which means that we’re a preferred contractor.”

“I love the program. I’m going to use it,” she said.

Lemoore isn’t the only community taking advantage of the program. Lemoore joined in 2014, Hanford signed up in 2015. Corcoran, Avenal and Kings County joined in 2016. Countywide, 251 homes have participated in the program and an estimated 39 local jobs have been created with nearly $8 million in economic stimulation to the local economy.

Homeowners will save a projected $9.63 million in utility bills, said HERO officials.

“PACE financing gives homeowners an innovative way to access improvements such as new windows and doors, high-efficiency HVAC systems, water-efficient landscaping and even rooftop solar, and it’s clearly working,” said Josh Brock, HERO Community Engagement Manager for Lemoore. “Owners of these renovated Lemoore homes are reaping the benefits, and the city is, too.”

HERO program helps Lemoore homeowners with energy efficient upgrades

Since the financing option became available in Lemoore, HERO projects have been completed in 121 homes for $2.1 million in funding. The financing option enables homeowners to make energy and efficiency improvements and to pay for them over time through their property tax bill. By stimulating home renovation activity, the HERO Program increases demand for local contractor services. Thus, an estimated 18 local jobs that cannot be outsourced or automated have been created through this uptick in renovation activity.

The resources saved through HERO-financed efficiency upgrades are significant. HERO officials insist that on average, for every 100 homes that complete HERO-financed efficiency upgrades: carbon emissions saved are equivalent to taking 850 cars off the road for one year; energy saved is equivalent to powering 1,380 homes for one year; and water saved is equivalent to 271,750 showers.   

In addition to saving energy, the city is saving water by issuing water restrictions, such as mandatory landscape watering schedules and lawn watering restrictions during the dry season.

Because of the public-private nature of the HERO Program, it offers additional consumer safeguards not found with other forms of home-improvement financing. Residents interested in HERO financing for their homes are invited to visit www.HeroProgram.com.

The statistics provided by HERO reveal that Lemoore and other communities are taking advantage of the program:

In Lemoore:

-          121 homes have completed energy efficiency, water efficiency, and/or solar installation projects

-          $2.18 million in HERO financing

-          An estimated 19 local jobs have been created

-          This increased home improvement activity has provided an estimated $3.78 million in local economic stimulation

-          Homeowners are projected to save $4.6 million in utility bills over the lifetime of the installed products and systems

In all of Kings County (including Lemoore’s numbers):

-          HERO launched in Lemoore in late 2014; in Hanford in 2015; and in Corcoran, Avenal, and the County itself in 2016

-          251 homes have completed energy efficiency, water efficiency, and/or solar installation projects

-          $4.54 million in HERO financing

-          An estimated 39 local/regional jobs have been created

-          $7.87 million in economic stimulation to the local economy

-          Homeowners will save a projected $9.63 million in utility bills

In the state of California:

-          88,200 homes improved

-          $2.13 billion in financing

-          Estimated 18,100 jobs created

-          $3.70 billion in economic stimulus

-          $3.59 billion in utility bill savings


Comments powered by Disqus