Energy Rebates and Funding for Home Energy Upgrades

Programs for energy rebates in the US - and in fact, globally - literally number in the thousands. Money in the form of grants, rebates, incentives, credits, tax credits, and discounted utility services is available to help you remodel your home if you also make it more energy efficient. You can apply for funding through local, state and federal governments, utilities, manufacturers, and energy service companies.

Hopefully, this section can help you sort through it without going crazy (no promises). The rest of this section is a simple primer on the different energy financing programs in the U.S. Read this page first, and then go to any of the following sections for more details and resources:

  • The Home Energy Tax Credit - What does this mean exactly, and what is available for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements?
  • Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs - This is the place to find incentives that can help pay for your energy improvements through Federal, State, Local, and Utility Programs.
  • Energy Efficient Mortgage Products - Baby...almost as rare as unicorn meat, and as valuable as gold, but no one knows about them. Find out why.
  • Solar Leasing - Finally, making solar affordable for the rest of us, but like they say, "there's no free lunch". Read about the pros and cons on this page.
  • Energy Star Rebate Programs - These energy rebates have long promoted high-efficiency appliances from partner manufacturers and put cash back in peoples' pockets for believing (Amen). If you are considering buying a new appliance, or have an old clunker energy hog, read on.

Frankly, knowing what is out there and how to qualify and apply can be overwhelming and downright confusing. For example, there are energy rebates from federal and state intiatives for improving insulation levels in homes, weatherizing or winterizing(Cash for Caulkers), upgrading windows, and replacing home heating systems, adding solar electric, participating in voluntary energy conservation programs, etc. A popular one is upgrading your old clunky appliances and buying Energy Star Appliances at reduced costs through rebates.

Many utility companies have homeowner audit programs that help identify improvements and also provide energy efficiency grants for installing new heating/cooling equipment. It is very worthwhile to contact your utility company to find out and compare the different types of programs available with government programs. Often, utility incentives outperform governmental incentives, with reduced red tape (government and red tape? No way!).

While the volume of programs offering energy rebates are overwhelming, the truth is that only a few apply to homeowners. This page is an overview of which apply to homeowners. Program details are provided in the pages mentioned above.

Unfortunately, filing for energy rebates can be lengthy and cumbersome, and the requirements are complex and sometimes very technical. This often discourages homeowners from applying for the programs. Many utility programs have begun to streamline and simplify the application process, and may sometimes offer better rebates or incentives than state or federal programs.

Note that if you are working with a contractor or building professional to perform an audit or install upgrades such as new mechanical systems or insulation, they should be familiar with the relevant programs, and better yet, assist you with the filing process. There are incentive programs available for contractors to promote high efficiency equipment, so, check to see if the rebates applied for will go to the contractor or to you.

Federal Programs for Homeowners

Below is an overview of the essential programs that are still active. They are all discussed in great detail in the pages mentioned above.

  • The Home Energy Tax Credit which includes credits for energy efficiency upgrades, and renewable energy retrofits. The energy efficiency tax credits encompass a variety of heating, cooling and hot water equipment, shell upgrades such as windows, doors, insulation, caulking, and appliances.
  • The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit allows residents a 30 percent tax credit on solar photovoltaic systems, with a maximum cap of $2,000 for systems installed before Dec. 31, 2008. No maximum exists for systems installed after Jan. 1, 2009, through the program's end on Dec. 31, 2016.
  • There is also a Residential Energy Conservation Subsidy Inclusion, which is a personal exemption on tax returns. This allows nontaxable subsidies from utility companies in the form of rate reductions or electric credits to customers who participate in utility energy conservation programs. You should check with a tax adviser for information on possible tax exemptions.
  • Energy Efficient Mortgages or low-interest financing options for home energy upgrades, allow homeowners or buyers to finance energy projects through monthly savings in utility bills.

State and Local Programs

Most state and local energy authorities offer energy rebates and incentives in the form of property tax exemptions and tax credits for energy efficiency and renewable energy (including solar electric systems. Solar electric rebate programs typically offer a certain amount of incentive per watt for the system. For example, for a three kilowatt (kW) system, an incentive amount based on $1.50 per watt yields an incentive of $4,500. The incentive usually has a maximum monetary cap and system size.)

Utility Incentive Programs

Public, cooperative and private utility companies offer incentives or rebates to reduce the need for new power-generation facilities. Utilities may release awards in stages, based on a home energy audit and a post-installation inspection. Owners of renewable energy systems, such as solar electric systems also benefit from net-metering, which allows customers to sell excess power back to the utility grid at a wholesale rate.

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