energy efficient cash

How can homeowners save on energy-efficient upgrades?

Last year, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $258 million in rebates were doled out to consumers who purchased Energy Star rated appliances. As a federally funded program, these rebates are no longer available. However, financial incentives are still available all across the country.

State, county and city initiatives are encouraging citizens–with rebates, cash-back programs and steep discounts–to reduce their energy usage by upgrading to more efficient appliances. For consumers who are already thinking about making the green switch, these offers only sweeten the deal.

Types of Equipment

By far, the most common items for which rebates and tax incentives are available are energy efficient appliances including: washers, dryers, refrigerators, stoves and microwaves. Besides major household appliances, HVAC systems and water heaters are also commonly associated with rebates and cash back programs.

Craig Whittaker from Environmental Services Group adds,

“Many people do not realize that heating and cooling and keeping a refrigerator running are the biggest energy hogs.”

The most comprehensive source of rebate information is the DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency). This website allows you to browse by state to find residential and commercial financial assistance and rebates for utilities, appliance upgrades, performance incentives and sales tax exemptions. Choose your state and then look for any offers that are run by your city or county.

While the federal program for most home appliances has ended, there is still federal assistance for some larger energy systems. The U.S. Department of Energy lists rebates for qualifying geothermal heat pumps, solar and wind energy systems, and fuel cell systems. These programs can represent savings of up to 30% of the total cost of your energy upgrades and are available through 2016.

John Lee from Solar Town notes,

“You can use current government programs to install solar panels. The most powerful incentive you have to do this is the federal investment tax credit. This provides homeowners with up to 30% tax credit on the installed cost of their solar products. However, there are some small limitations. To be eligible for the credit, a solar thermal project must supply half the energy used to heat water in the household.”

Mortgages

One of the least known energy freebies is arguably the largest one: energy mortgages. Most banks and lenders offer two types of energy mortgages: energy-efficient mortgages and energy improvement mortgages.

Energy-efficient mortgages are for purchasing new homes that meet specific efficiency guidelines. These mortgages allow buyers to stretch their budget to buy larger, more comfortable homes, justified by the expected savings on utilities and power consumption. Improvement mortgages are for existing homeowners that want to refinance in order to make energy efficient improvements on their homes.

In order to get either mortgage, homeowners must first get an inspection and a HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index score. These scores help lenders determine what sort of mortgage and financing is available. For more information on energy mortgages, check out the Residential Energy Services Network.

Considerations

Many homeowners who upgraded their appliances in 2012 were disappointed to find out that the federal Energy Star program had ended. Though state and other local rebates are still available, it’s important to always check what programs are available before you purchase your new appliance. In some cases, you may have to dispose of or recycle your old appliance in order to receive a tax credit or cash back. By doing your research beforehand, you will also ensure that you get the right kind of appliance and keep any necessary documentation. Though your chances to save money on energy will last a lifetime, the opportunity to get cash back on initial purchases are only available for a limited amount of time.