NEC Loans: Jan's New Furnace and Remodeled Kitchen

Before, during and after photos of a remodeled kitchen.

A Need for a New Furnace

This past July, Jan began to worry that her 30 year-old furnace might not make it through the next Minnesota winter.

When she lived in Los Angeles, Jan once went two years without replacing her broken heating system. But she's since left behind the mildness of the West Coast for the East Side of Saint Paul, where waiting to fix your furnace can have frigid consequences.

With help from the NEC’s loan program, Jan was able to do more than just get a new 96% efficient furnace — she also installed a new water heater, added insulation and an energy-efficient toilet, and redid her kitchen with granite countertops, a disposal and a dishwasher.

Long-Term Home Improvement Goals

These were all items on Jan’s “wouldn’t-it-be-nice” wish list when she moved into her one-story East Side rambler in 2011. It was a foreclosed property with what she describes as “good bones” and “one of those ugly, ugly kitchens.”

But while Jan knew she wanted to accomplish as many of her home improvement goals as possible, she had difficulty finding financing that fit her budget.

She looked into several different options. Some lenders didn’t get back to her or had complicated application processes; one bank wanted her to take out a loan amount much larger than she needed, at an interest rate higher than she was looking for.  After pursuing that particular loan and a process she describes as “going through backflips,” her loan application ended up getting rejected.

That’s when Jan first heard about the NEC  from a relative that works in the HVAC industry. She called NEC Loan Manager Leanne Karras to discuss financing options and things moved quickly from there: “One phone call with Leanne, and I felt like I was already getting started on the home improvement process. She was so nice and so informative.

Jan found that “Leanne was very focused on helping connect me with the options that fit my budget and goals.” She ended up being approved for two of the NEC’s loan products: the 15-year-deferred, zero-interest Energy Smart Homes Loan, offered in partnership with the City of Saint Paul, and the unsecured Fix-Up Loan, offered through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

Connections to Qualified Contractors

Leanne helped Jan with more than just financing. Before contacting the NEC, Jan had several contractors come to bid; their estimates were “astronomical,” so she kept looking.

 As part of the loan application process, Leanne connected Jan with Xcel Energy’s participating contractor list, which ultimately provided Jan with bids that were far lower than she’d initially received.

A Noticeable Impact on Comfort and Warmth

Jan has already noticed an almost immediate difference in her home’s performance.

As part of her participation in the Energy Smart Home Loan program, Jan’s house underwent a blower door test to measure her home’s airtightness — a key factor in warmth, comfort and the size of a home’s utility bills.

 After adding new insulation, Jan’s blower door test results improved by 23%. And between her new insulation and high-efficiency furnace, she’s already noticed a difference in how often her heater needs to turn on.

And while Jan will no doubt think fondly about the Southern California climate during the next few months, she’s looking forward to a comfortable, cozy winter in her newly-efficient Saint Paul home.

In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the NEC lent $1,124,737 to Minnesota residents for home improvements. While Energy Smart Homes loan funds are currently limited, the NEC offers a variety of other affordable financial products to help homeowners achieve their energy efficiency and home improvement goals.

Learn more details about the NEC’s financing options

Read more about the NEC’s unique, mission-driven loan program


Max Bielenberg is a communications specialist with the Neighborhood Energy Connection. He helps to tell the NEC’s story through social media, blog posts and website content. When he’s not reading up on residential energy savings, he enjoys riding his bike around town. You can connect with Max on LinkedIn.

With financing from the NEC, Jan made important home improvements, including installing a more efficient furnace and water heater, and remodeling her kitchen.