Taking the rebate: How to score incentives for home retrofit projects

The first step after having your home's energy inefficiencies scrutinized (see that wasn't so bad was it?) by a professional home energy auditor--or by yourself through a thorough, DIY residential energy assessment--is to prioritize and take action by embarking on energy efficiency-booting home retrofit and improvement projects.

However, the act of re-insulating your home, installing new doors and windows and replacing a clunky old furnace doesn't always come cheaply.

This is where energy-efficiency rebates and tax credits for home retrofit projects come in.

Energy Star Tax credits

Numerous Energy Star-branded products that can be used in home retrofit projects are currently eligible for Federal tax credits. Below is a breakdown of what products qualify and how much you can expect back:

  • Biomass stoves, insulation, HVAC systems and roofs (metal and asphalt): 10 percent of total cost up to $500 or a specific amount from $50 to $300. Must be installed at principal residence; new construction and rental properties do not qualify. Expires December 31, 2013.
  • Geothermal heat pumps, solar systems and small residential wind turbines: 30 percent of cost with no upper limit. Existing homes, new construction and second homes all qualify. Expires December 31, 2016.
  • Residential fuel cell systems: 30 percent of cost, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity. Must be installed at primary residence; existing homes and new construction qualify. Expires December 31, 2016.

Energy Star has additional information on these tax credits along with instructions on how to apply when filing annual taxes.

Localized rebates and incentives

Many states and local municipalities along with utility companies offer home energy rebates and tax incentives for homeowners investing in home energy-efficiency projects. Low-cost or free residential energy audits are available as well. Just a few notable state/city-specific programs include the Seattle City Light's Multifamily Weatherization and Lighting Rebate Program, New York State's Home Performance with Energy Star program and Oregon' s State Home Oil Weatherization (SHOW) Program.

For a complete list of energy-efficiency rebates and tax credits available in your area, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE). Keep in mind that not all energy-efficiency rebate and incentive programs are created equal: what exactly is eligible and how much you can expect to save can vary by which city, county or state you happen to call home.

About the Author:

Matt Hickman, a Brookynite with an affinity for Dt. Coke, keeps busy as an eco-friendly writer. His work has appeared in CITY Magazine, GreenYour website, Curbed, Mother Nature Network and more.