There are a handful of tax breaks for homeowners who improve the energy efficiency of their homes — essentially, the government reduces your taxes if you make your house greener.

Now a bill introduced in the Senate by senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) would give a different kind of incentive — it would require lenders to take into account the energy-efficient features of a home when calculating a borrower’s income/expense ratio.

Essentially, it would allow buyers to qualify for a larger loan or a better rate if a home is energy efficient.

The idea is simple: When figuring what borrowers can afford to repay, banks assume they’ll have to spend a certain amount for heating, cooling, and other utility usage, based on what’s typical for the area and the type and size of home. The Bennet/Isakson bill would require them to assume that someone in a more energy-efficient home would spend less… and thus be able to afford to borrow more.

A home-energy report would have to be prepared by an approved inspector (much like a radon or termite report), and lenders would explain the benefits of investing in green upgrades.

Oh, and — unlike a similar bill that was introduced a few years ago — this one would not penalize less-efficient homes; it would only reward those with greener features.

Click here to read more in the Times.