FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The heat is back and air conditioners across the Treasure Coast are getting their workouts.
For many struggling homeowners, a comfortable home is a luxury.
But a nonprofit started on the Treasure Coast is celebrating 10 years of keeping people cool, while they don't sweat over the payments.
When Lorraine Blatt moved into her Fort Pierce community, the inspector said she'd need new pipes and a new air conditioner.
"I knew I didn't have a way without taking out a loan," Blatt said.
But with a less than stellar credit score, she was concerned.
That's where SELF stepped in. The Solar Energy Loan Fund is a nonprofit community lender started in St. Lucie County.
"What we're trying to do is provide people with access to affordable financing so people can fix up their homes," SELF executive director Doug Coward said.
SELF broke its lending records last year, funding 2,000 sustainable home improvement projects totaling $18 million.
"A lot of the clients that we're helping don't have great credit score, and therefore would have to rely on a predatory lender or maybe use a credit card at 25% interest," Coward said.
As a retired school counselor, not a contractor, Blatt didn't want to be taken advantage of -- something she said was another big plus of SELF.
"I knew that they were going to oversee what was happening so that it would be done properly," Blatt said.
Zack and Jon Langel at Sea Coast Air Conditioning were noticing that a number of potential clients were having trouble getting financing. So they partnered with SELF.
"We did the math on it this morning," Zack Langel said. "We have done a little over 200 systems through SELF (and) have never once had a problem."
That's more than $1 million in business for the brothers, who get paid directly by SELF as the homeowner pays off the loan.
Clients can use SELF more than once. Blatt already has her eyes on a new roof, and SELF is ready to assist.
"Get quality work, get quality pricing, and then make their homes more comfortable, more efficient and more valuable," Coward said.