Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Save Energy, Save the Planet

Over the past few weeks I’ve been discussing things you can do yourself to improve the energy efficiency of your home. But there will be times when the job is just too big or overwhelming to do yourself. Have no fear! I have an economical solution for all of the big jobs that need to be done. There are state and federal tax credits, rebates, loan programs and grants available to people of all income levels. Yes, all income levels. You don’t have to be considered low income to take advantage of energy efficiency incentives. Every Tuesday I will present you with a new incentive that can potentially save you money.

This week’s incentive is the Assisted Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program. It’s a subsidy that pays for 50% of energy efficiency upgrades up to $5,000 for single family homes and up to $10,000 for 1-4 unit homes. Covered upgrades include energy efficient furnaces/boilers, hot water heaters, a/c units, insulation, air sealing, programmable thermostats, etc… (Appliances are also covered but not up to 50%.) So, for example, if you received $10,000 worth of work, you would only have to pay for $5,000. The program pays for the other half. Plus, you don’t have to pay the full price and wait for a rebate. You just pay for your half and the contractor bills the program for the rest. There are income guidelines and they vary by county, but eligibility includes 80% of the state or area median income so that covers many of us. Also, you have to be a major utility customer such as NYSEG or National Grid (our Systems Benefit Charge pays for this subsidy).

So how do you go about getting into this program, you ask? First of all, begin the application process. Once you’re approved, a Building Performance Institute (BPI) Accredited Contractor has to perform a home energy audit. An audit consists of checking home insulation levels, testing the efficiency of electrical appliances, testing the draft and efficiency of heating systems and water heaters, performing an air leakage test (blower door test) and performing a general safety inspection. Most contractors have a fee for audits but many discount the audit fee off the cost of work once you decide to do business with them. Once the audit is complete, the contractor will send you the audit report in the mail with their findings and a cost estimate for suggested improvements. Don’t get overwhelmed. You don’t have to do all of the suggested things on the audit report. You can pick and choose as long as the work meets the programs efficiency standards. If you can only do a few things, the subsidy doesn’t go away. For example, if you only use $1,500 of the $5,000 subsidy, you still have $3,500 but you would just have to reapply.

You also get a tax credit on your 50% and there are loan programs out there to help you pay for your half but more on that next week.

County income guidelines
Eligible measures
BPI Accredited Contractors in your area
Assisted Home Performance application

Submit the application to:
Energy Finance Solutions
431 Charmany Drive
Madison, Wisconsin 53719
Phone: 800.969.9322
Email: efs@energyfinancesolutions.com

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