Most US homeowners are now qualified for up to US$25,000 in federally insured loans to develop energy-efficient upgrades such as sealing ducts, adding insulation or replacing windows.

Consumers with manageable debt, good credit scores and some equity in their homes can obtain PowerSaver loans below market rates to fund efficiency measures that also include water heaters, new HVAC systems, solar panels and geothermal cooling / heating.

“We’re making it easier for American homeowners to save money by saving energy,” said Steven Chu, Energy Secretary.

According to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, there were 18 regional and national lenders, including Quicken, which have signed on to the two-year pilot programme.

Mr. Donovan expects the loans to serve approximately 30,000 homeowners and not only save them money on energy bills but also minimise pollution and generate at least 3,000 construction jobs.

PowerSaver loans are part of the Obama administration’s wider efforts to enhance home energy efficiency.

Last November, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a pilot programme that will test the new Home Energy Score, which ranks a home’s energy efficiency on a scale of one to 10.

Similar to the miles-per-gallon label for vehicles, the score will advise consumers on how their homes compare with others and how much money they can save with efficiency upgrades based on an energy audit.

However, David Kreutzer, an energy expert at the Heritage Foundation, has criticised the latest US government effort to improve home energy efficiency, stating that the government “should not be in the business of selecting which home improvement projects homeowners can finance.”

Mr. Kreutzer believes that only home owners who are eligible for normal home-equity loans will likely meet the lending requirements, which include a credit score of at least 660 and a mortgage balance that is less than 45 percent of their annual income.

“This looks like a programme to subsidise home improvements for those who don’t need subsidies,” he added.

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