Posts Tagged ‘tax credits’

Taxes and Energy Efficiency

April 11, 2011

For those who’s spouses don’t care to hear  “honey, don’t badger me about the taxes anymore” keep in mind that late filers have another weekend to drag it out.

If you are using the extra few days and will be filing on the 18th, remember that there is a tax credit for energy efficiency measures that were made last year.  Our website provide details on the 2010 credit which incentivized high-efficiency furnaces, air-conditioners, insulation, windows, doors and other improvements.   

So if you didn’t get around to energy efficiency improvements in 2010, the good news for next year is that there will be a tax credit for this year too.  Before you start dancing and singing “everybody wang chung tonight“, keep in mind that the tax credit is smaller for 2011.

Reminder: Don’t forget to claim any energy-efficiency home improvement tax credits

April 14, 2010

Many people scrambled to get qualifying improvements installed before the end of 2009 to be able to claim tax credits—don’t forget to claim the credits if you did!  It’s important to remember that ARRA extended these energy-efficiency home improvement tax credits through December 31, 2010.  And thus the $1,500 credit is still available for qualifying insulation, furnace and air-conditioner replacements, window and door replacement, and other measures.   We’ve got a good summary of measures that qualify and answers to some frequently asked questions on these federal tax credits for energy-efficiency improvements. See also IRS 2009 Form 5695 which includes instructions and requirements.


Tax Credit Form

March 6, 2010

Tax time. And many folks are sending in inquiries about what things qualify for the federal tax credits for energy-efficiency improvements.   As noted before, we’ve provided answers to some of the common questions and a summary of the credits on the GreenHomes website.  And the IRS has issued the 2009 Form 5695 which includes instructions and requirements.


Home Star, Cash for Caulkers, Home Performance with Energy Star–Call it what you will. The time to act is now.

January 7, 2010

In December, at an event in a Virginia Home Depot, President Obama declared that “Insulation is Sexy.”

This was a follow-up to his earlier announcement of a Home Star or “Cash for Caulkers” initiative.  (“Cash for Caulkers” may be a cute name riffing off of “Cash for Clunkers”, but Home Star is much more than caulk or caulkers and the CfC moniker is a bit misleading.)

Congress has taken up the idea and is exploring how to put meat on the bones.  And rightly so.  As the Boston Globe points out, this should be an immediate priority when Congress returns to session in a couple of weeks.  It’s the right way to get the 17 percent of construction workers who are unemployed back on the payroll improving homes while also increasing our nation’s energy security and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.  While GreenHomes continues to be busier than ever, that simply isn’t the case for most of the residential contracting and construction industry.  Fortunately, Congress may have a good start on this in the form the REEP legislation introduced by Congressman Peter Welch earlier in 2009, elements of which were incorporated in both House and Senate energy and climate bills that seem to have stalled out. 

It’s time to move forward with REEP under the Home Star banner and get construction workers, manufacturing workers making insulation, furnaces, windows, water heaters, and all the supporting industries back on the job full time.

The HOME STAR Program

As just mentioned, HOME STAR is intended to create jobs in existing industries using incentives for homeowners to retrofit homes to improve energy efficiency and lower energy use.  The program will move quickly with a minimum of red tape and also act as a bridge to long term market development of existing industries and jobs.   

 HOME STAR provides two pathways to incentives and savings.

 A SILVER STAR prescriptive path, what I call the a la carte approach, rewards the purchase and proper installation of specific energy saving equipment (like furnaces and water heaters), high performance major appliances (like refrigerators and washing machines), and very importantly, changes to a buildings envelope (like insulation and duct sealing).   Incentives may range as high as $4,000.  SILVER STAR provides a near term incentive that is simple to administer and easily introduced into the existing marketplace.

A GOLD STAR performance path offers an incentive to households that choose to conduct a comprehensive energy audit and then implement a variety of energy saving measures that together result in a total reduction in home energy use (and energy bills) of 20% or more.   This lines up very well with the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program already on the ground in many states and localities and in development in many more (and I think taking advantage of ENERGY STAR makes a lot of sense here).  The incentive is designed to provide greater rewards the deeper the energy savings—up to as much as $12,000 for projects that save more than 50% of a home’s energy use. The performance path represents the future of home efficiency:  state‐of‐the‐art building science is used to deliver verifiable energy savings, generating confidence among homeowners and investors.  GreenHomes is doing this today, but most of the market is lagging.

Both paths are subject to quality assurance to guarantee that jobs are done right and that advertised energy savings are realized, and to protect against waste, fraud and abuse. This system uses industry performance standards, such as those of the Building Performance Institute and includes a provision that a portion of all jobs are inspected by credentialed professionals, and offers an additional incentive to contractors that invest in a trained and certified workforce.

HOME STAR would breathe life into a still struggling economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs by skilled and trained home efficiency technicians and factory workers here in the U.S.   We have great examples of how this both creates jobs and provides enormous benefits to consumers.  The time to act is now.


Is it time to replace your furnace, boiler, or heat pump?

October 25, 2009

We get asked lot whether someone should replace their furnace, boiler, or heat pump.  Great question.  Of course, it’s hard to say for certain without know the particulars–but the best answer is often earlier than people think.

Most people wait until their system breaks down to consider replacing it.  They don’t want to pay the cost of the new equipment any earlier than they have to.  With today’s new high-efficiency furnances and boilers, however, you may be spending a lot more in waste heat and money sent in smoke up your chimney than you save by waiting.  It’s be worth taking a look at.

And there are a variety of comfort, safety, and noise factors which might also point you toward a new system now.  Look for simple signs that it may be time to replacement your furnace.

A huge advantage of “planned replacement” (as opposed to “emergency replacement”) is that you have the luxury of making adjustments to your home which can greatly improve comfort, safety, and energy-efficiency, and you can match the system to your exact requirements rather than getting stuck with whatever is on the shelf.

Check the signs that it might be time to replace.  If it is, look at your whole house for the best combination of improvements to me.  And remember that all of this may be eligible for the current $1500 federal tax credits for home improvements including furnaces, air-conditioning, insulation, windows, and even roofing.


Tips to Save Energy This Winter

October 14, 2009

The leaves are changing and despite the mild summer in the Northeast, my body wasn’t quite prepared for the cold temperatures that are starting, and furnaces are turning on.  (OK, the southern half of the country doesn’t know what I’m talking about—but winter is on the way for you, too.) 

A home energy audit can help you find the right solutions and prioritize--but get the right audit!

A home energy audit can help you find the right solutions and prioritize--but get the right audit!

In the spirit of recycling, I’m pull out an old post on some of the high impact things you can do to stay warm and comfortable this winter and reduce you heating bills, too!  These are general recommendations.  To find out what’s most appropriate for you and your home, you should start with a good home energy audit to help find hidden issues, prioritize your improvements, and make sure your home is operating safely and efficiently.  (See a short video on what’s included in a good audit.)  [Note, below you won’t see bogus claims for overpriced “miracle” cures with or without Amish mantles or for $20 ceramic heaters price at $200 to pay for full-page newspaper ads.  Stay away from these things!]

  1. The attic is a great place to start.  Air leaks from rooms below into the attic can be one of the biggest drains on energy and your bank account.  Sealing attic air leaks can have a huge impact.
  2. Use caulk or foam to seal around the plumbing stack vent, where it goes through floors. This is a pipe (PVC, or cast iron in older homes) that runs from the basement sewer pipe up through every floor, and out through the roof.   Holes for electric wiring, and around chimneys, are also problem areas worth addressing.
  3. Insulate and air-seal your attic hatch. Often, builders overlook the hatch when they insulate the attic.
  4. Many homes today have recessed ceiling lights, also called can lights. These fixtures look great, but are a notorious source of heat leaks into the attic, and between floors.  You can install new air-tight fixtures, use air-tight baffles, or build air-tight boxes around them in the attic.  With existing fixtures, check with an electrician first to make sure the fixtures you have are “IC” rated so it’s safe to put insulation against them.

    Leaky ducts rob your home of air you've paid to heat (and cool).

    Leaky ducts rob your home of air you've paid to heat (and cool).

  5. Only after you’ve done air-sealing, put an extra layer of insulation on the attic floor, on top of the insulation you currently have there.  Sixteen to 24-inches is not excessive in cold climates—and it will keep you cooler in the summer too!
  6. Vents to the outside of your home are pipelines for cold air leaking in, and warm air leaking out.  Install one-way baffles on your kitchen fan vent, dryer vent, and bathroom fan vents.
  7. Keep your boiler and furnace tuned up.   If they’re reaching the end of their lifespan, consider replacing with a high-efficiency unit, one that at least qualifies for Energy Star®.   
  8. Install and use a programmable thermostat—this ensures that you don’t forget to turn the heat down at night or while you’re away at work.
  9. Do you have a forced air heating or cooling system? If so, make sure to seal and insulate the ductwork in attics and crawl spaces. As much as 30% of the air you heat (or cool in the summer) can escape outside through leaky ducts.
  10. Replacing appliances? Look for Energy Star qualified models of dishwashers, refrigerators, light fixtures, and compact fluorescent bulbs.

BONUS:  The ARRA (Stimulus) federal tax credits can help you pay for these home energy improvements.

Your water heater doesn't have to look this bad to be spilling dangerous carbon monoxide into your home.  Get it checked.

Your water heater doesn't have to look this bad to be spilling dangerous carbon monoxide into your home. Get it checked.

With some advice from your local home center, over four or five free weekends and with a willingness to crawl through dirty, itchy insulation, a handy homeowner can tackle many of these projects. The energy savings, and effect on comfort, are cumulative, so do as many as you can. If you don’t relish the idea of strapping on a tool belt, consider a contractor that specializes in home energy solutions. GreenHomes can complete the entire scope of work in a few days. Our whole-home solutions guarantee a minimum 25% reduction in energy consumption, with most customers seeing much higher reductions, often up to 40, 50 and 60 percent.

And whether you do the work yourself or you have it done by a contractor, after you tighten the house you should have any combustion equipment like furnaces and water heaters tested to make sure they’re running safely and efficiently.


Home Sweet Home: Still a Great Investment.

May 1, 2009

OK, I know, I’ve said it before.  But the ARRA tax credits  have been getting a pretty fair amount of press in recent weeks. This Times article, for example, does a good job of summarizing some of the incentives the Act puts forward. Based on my discussions with people, it’s clear to me that many homeowners are aware that now may be a good time to put in those high E windows, or install that solar thermal hot water system.

But, what few folks realize is that, in today’s economic climate, saving energy in your home might offer about the best combination of return and security you can get on money you’re looking to invest. The bigger picture goes beyond just taking advantage of tax credits.

Here’s the gist of what I’m thinking: Why settle for a 1 or 2% return on a CD, 0.25% on a Money Market Account, 0.5% on a T-Bill, or risk losing money in the stock market, when you can get a secure 8% or better return on money you invest in making your home energy efficient? Bonus benefits are: your home is more comfortable, safer,  ‘greener’, has higher resale value, and you can take advantage of the ARRA federal tax credits.

The confluence of these energy-efficiency tax credits, today’s improved technology and installation practices, rising energy prices, and a rotten set of investment choices, simply makes investing your home one of the best things you can do with your money.

And GreenHomes offers our customers a 25% energy savings, minimum.  Some see 50% or better.  Ben Franklin said a penny saved is a penny earned.  I sure he’d be excited about savings thousands of dollars, and you should be to!



WSJ clip: Small Fixes Lead to Big Savings

March 24, 2009

The Wall Street Journal posted this video to their site.  It gives a good sense of what a home energy audit entails in a short clip, with some blower door footage. 

GreenHomes gets a nice mention, and that’s our Senior Advisor, John Scipione, with the infrared camera.


$1,500 Home Retrofit Tax Credits

February 20, 2009

As mentioned in my last post, the ARRA includes new and increased tax credits for 30% of the cost of qualifying improvements up to $1,500. ENERGY STAR has put together a good summary of the credits.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (The Stimulus Package)

February 14, 2009

Good news on the energy-efficiency front.  With the ARRA now passed and ready to roll, homeowners now qualify for up to $1,500 in tax credits for energy efficiency home improvement projects including:

  • Insulation
  • Windows with U-values less than or equal to 0.30
  • Gas/propane furnaces with greater than or equal to 95% AFUE
  • Gas/propane boilers with greater than or equal to 90% AFUE
  • Oil furnaces/boilers with greater than or equal to 90% AFUE
  • Water heaters with an energy factor greater than or equal to 0.82.

And the cap on the 30% credit for solar thermal/solar hot water has been lifted.

These credits apply for projects in 2009 and 2010.

With a massive increase in the Weatherization assistance program—about 6-fold to $5 Billion over two years—insulation services will also be in big demand.


Homeowners can beat the rush, take advantage and the tax credits, and start saving immediately by scheduling improvements NOW.  Insualtion, heating and cooling equipment, water heaters, the right windows, and solar systems, qualify provided you make the right choices.  (GreenHomes’ Advisors can point you in the right direction).  Energy efficiency projects are something that make sense sooner rather than later.



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