If you are looking for extra money this fall and winter- then reducing your energy costs could be a great place to start. But often times when we are looking to reduce those bills our minds go right to the big stuff. Solar panels or a new HVAC system are two examples. Those can be excellent decisions but they aren’t the first place to look when trying to save money each month.
Why not start with the cheap and easy solutions:
• 80% of our home energy savings can come from making our home more airtight and using more energy efficient products. Simple things like weather stripping and caulking around windows and doors and sealing cracks can make a big difference. Insulation is another important step. If you have an exposed area that is easy to insulate make sure it is. Adding a programmable thermostat will save you money by allowing you to make your home’s climate the most comfortable, when you are actually there to enjoy it.
• You may want to invest in an energy audit of your home. Hire a professional to walk around and show you where your “air leaks” are. If it were a water leak you wouldn’t hesitate to fix it – air leaks need to be addressed too! They are blowing dollars out of your home in the summer and winter. An audit will also tell you if you need to make slightly bigger investments – things like adding insulation behind the drywall. There are new ways to do this with foam and other products that can seal up a space without tearing down walls!
• Insulating water heaters and using energy efficient bulbs and appliances will help bring down costs, as will unplugging computers and other appliances when they are not in use.
Once you have sealed the space and found the simple ways to conserve – you may need to make bigger investments to get that last 20% improvement on your energy bills. This is where you can consider geothermal, wind or solar investments for your home.
State by state there are programs that can help you invest in these and other energy efficient products. In some cases there are tax breaks, in others there are low interest loans that will help you make these changes.
The federal government also has a few tax breaks for major energy efficiency investments. They cover installation of solar panels, a geothermal heat pump, wind turbines and hydrogen fuels cells.
These tax credits are pretty generous, and if you couple them with a low cost subsidized loan there may not be a whole lot of out of pocket expense for you. The tax credit covers 30% of the cost with no upper limit. In other words there is no cap. For example, if your system costs you $10,000 then you will get $3,000 in tax credits. If your system costs you $30,000 you will get $9,000 in tax credits. You have to Submit Form 5695 and provide a manufacturers certification statement to receive the credits. All reputable installers of these systems know all about the forms needed and often make it very easy for the homeowners to get their tax credits. These federal tax credits are in place until December 31, 2016.
To get state-by-state information on tax breaks, rebates and savings visit http://energy.gov/savings scroll down to your state and see what is currently being offered.