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Making It Easier to Go Green
You know that making your home more energy-efficient will save you money in the long run, and you believe it is the right thing to do. But you still aren’t sure about spending the money for an energy upgrade, especially in these difficult times. Federal, state and local governments, and even utilities, want to ease the pain of going green.
The federal government has created a series of tax credits that erase almost a third of the cost of making several energy-saving changes to your home. And unlike tax deductions, which reduce your taxable income, tax credits are applied to the tax you owe.
The first of these credits will expire on December 31, 2010. You can apply this credit only on upgrades to an existing principal residence; you can’t use it on new construction, second homes or rental property. It covers 30 percent, up to $1,500, of the cost of:
- Biomass stoves, which are stoves that burn materials such as agricultural crops, wood and wood waste, plants, grass and fibers to heat the home or water for the home.
- Heating and air-conditioning upgrades, including an advanced main air-circulating fan, which pushes air from your furnace through your ducts, and energy-efficient heating and air-conditioning units.
- Roofing that reflects the sun, to make cooling more efficient.
- Energy-efficient water heaters
- Energy-efficient windows, storm windows and doors.
Another credit allows you to take 30 percent of costs, with no limits, on:
- Geothermal heat pumps.
- Small wind turbines.
- Solar energy systems.
This credit expires December 31, 2016. You can use it for existing homes or new construction, and for your principal home and a second home. But you can’t use it for rental housing.
You also can take a tax credit for installing a residential fuel cell and microturbine sytem, which the government calls, “an important enabling technology for the hydrogen economy.” This tax credit is for 30 percent of the cost of installation, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity. It is available for your primary residence only; second homes and rental units don’t qualify. However, it is applicable to new or existing homes. This credit expires December 31, 2016.
For information about these tax credits, see the federal Energy Star Web site. You also can check the Department of Energy for additional information on tax breaks.
Individual state and local governments also have programs that can provide incentives for making your home more energy-efficient. And even utilities are getting into the act. In Illinois, for example, the electrical utility ComEd has a program that offers discounts to consumers for compact fluorescent bulbs from participating retailers, and provides a $25 rebate and free pickup and disposal of your old refrigerator or freezer when you replace it with a new, energy-efficient model. In addition, ComEd will perform a free energy upgrade of your home, including:
- Installing up to four compact fluorescent lights.
- Replacing sink aerators with high-efficiency aerators.
- Installing a new, water-saving showerhead.
- Wrapping your electric water heater, if necessary.
For a look at opportunities in your state, check out the Web site Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.