U.S. Senate bill allows energy savings to pay for upgrades

— Making a house more energy efficient saves money and the environment in the long-run — as long as the homeowner can afford the upfront costs.

That’s been a major barrier to things like solar panels on homes, new water heaters and other upgrades that make financial sense, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., says.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that includes Merkley’s proposal to make it much easier to save money and power. The provision lets the U.S. Energy Department set up a program to give homeowners loans to fund energy-efficiency upgrades. The borrowers could then pay back the loans using a portion of the savings from their power bills.

“This amendment will enable homeowners and local businesses to take the lead in making our buildings more energy efficient,” Merkley said in a statement. “Our transition to a clean-energy economy will take cooperation at every level of government and we need to encourage innovative energy-saving solutions in our communities.”

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