How to Upgrade If You Are Almost Done With a Mortgage or Have No Mortgage


If you have an existing mortgage that is almost done (less than ~5-7 years) or you have no mortgage remaining, you may be able to take advantage of fair, green financing options, but the process may look different than if you are looking to refinance your longer term existing mortgage.

But, just because your mortgage is almost - or even fully - done doesn't mean energy efficiency/renewable upgrades are suddenly more affordable or that you shouldn't also be able to benefit from fair financing. But because "Green Mortgage Refinances" can also see reductions on their home's current interest rate, bank fees are usually eaten by savings from lower interest rates. That may not be the case with options for those with no existing mortgage.

While options such as home equity loans, home equity lines of credit or special solar or energy efficiency loans (such as WCCU's "Leg-Up" loan, or Summit CU's energy loans) are an option, they usually have terms that are too short or interest rates too high to hit the goal we aim to achieve: that energy efficiency upgrades be able to save more on utility bills than they cost to undertake.

Instead, if you are looking to do major energy efficiency upgrades, we often help homeowners access "Cash-Out Refinances" (and yes, it is still considered a "refinance" even if you have no mortgage). These allow homeowners to get a loan for upgrades that uses the equity in their home to ensure lower interest rates. While they tend to have a bit higher closing costs than home equity loans or lines of credit, they ensure much lower interest rates (usually in the 2.5-3.875% range) and allow for terms of 20 or 30 years to spread it over. Making it possible to see monthly energy savings above monthly payback costs on the loan.

We know this isn't for everyone. Psychologically, after paying off one's mortgage, an individual may not want to suddenly add another one with a lot of time or money left on it. We get that. That is why we design the programs to (1) save, whenever possible, more on the average monthly utility bills than the monthly cost of the loan, and (2) if the homeowner decided to move away, the improved value of the home from the upgrades covers the remaining loan. So you do not have to wait 20 years to see benefit nor are you stuck there for that long.  

Program steps (for those with no mortgage):

Step 1 

Fill out this form or click here to tell us more about your home and schedule a time to talk to us. We will go over the program details, learn more about your home and determine if your home can benefit from this program. Our rule: this program must save you more than it costs in our economic modeling or we will not move forward. Our goal is to help those who otherwise are unlikely to be able to access green upgrades.

Step 2

Provided our rule is met, we will visit the home and do a full investigation of energy & water saving opportunities, adjusting our economic models as needed. We will look to get you pre-approved for the financing for the energy improvements. We will investigate using tools such as thermal camera, air leakage test and utility bill look-back to fully estimate the opportunity for carbon- and utility bill-cutting. We will go over the mortgage refinance process and introduce you to one or more financial institutions.

Step 3

Working with financial institutions, we will determine what interest rate you are eligible for and factor that into our economic model of costs and savings. Working with relevant contractors such as solar panel installers we will finalize the scope of work and provide a full overview of what the cost and savings of the program will mean for you on your mortgage payments, water bill (if applicable), electric and gas bills, again ensuring our main rule of positive savings is achieved. The financial institution will send a real estate appraiser to determine what the value of the home will be, and you will be invited to a refinance closing signing.

Step 4

After closing, the bank will write you a check for the total amount of funding you request, with no requirements on how it is spent. You will then work directly with us to schedule and begin the projects. We will assist the new Green Homeowner in understanding and accessing any and all relevant tax credits and rebates that can further increase the savings. We will also help the homeowner understand how they can go further in fighting climate change at home!


We'll work with you to identify all relevant weather conditions, building factors, utility rates, bank fees, financing terms and more to show you at every step of the way where you stand on whether this program is expected to save more than it costs. 

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