Take advantage of tax credits and rebates

Last reviewed: October 2010

Whether you're putting in a $50,000 solar panel system or adding $50 worth of insulation, chances are the government will help foot the bill. Below we detail the different givebacks. Don't see what you're looking for? Check with your utility company; many have added items such as showerheads, toilets, and thermostats to their rebate programs. Manufacturers and retailers are another source of incentives, especially for energy-efficient appliances.

Federal Energy Tax Credits

What is it?

A 30 percent tax credit up to $1,500 on duct sealing, heating and cooling equipment, insulation, roofing, windows, and other energy-efficiency improvements. Installation costs are not included for sealing air leaks, adding insulation, or putting in windows, doors, and roofs. Credits are currently limited by the Alternative Minimum Tax (but weren't in 2009) and may not be combined with other federal rebates.

Deadline

The project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2010.

How to collect

File IRS form 5695 with your 2010 taxes. Keep a copy of the Manufacturer's Certification Statement and all receipts and itemized bills. If you completed your project in 2009 and didn't claim the credit, you can file an amended return for 2009.

For more information

Go to www.energystar.gov (search under Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency) or www.ConsumerReports.org/energytaxcredits.

 

Federal Renewable Energy Tax Credits

What is it?

A 30 percent tax credit on solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and small wind turbines. Primary residences and second homes qualify. There is no cap on how much you can claim.

Deadline

The project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2016.

How to collect

File IRS form 5695 with your taxes for the year in which the work is completed. Credits are not limited by the AMT. Keep a copy of the Manufacturer's Certification Statement and all receipts and itemized bills. If you completed your project in 2009 and didn't claim the credit, you can file an amended return for 2009.

For more information

Go to www.energystar.gov and search under Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency.

 

Cash for Appliances

What is it?

The Department of Energy had each state design its own program for its portion of the $300 million program. Rebates usually range from $50 to $500 and might cover dishwashers, freezers, furnaces and boilers, heat pumps (air source and geothermal), refrigerators, room air conditioners, washers, and water heaters.

How to collect

Most states have mail-in forms, though a handful offer point-of-purchase rebates.

Deadline

States have until February 2012 to spend the money. As of press time, rebates were available in more than half of all states.

For more information

Go to www.energysavers.gov or www.ConsumerReports.org/clunkers.

 

Home Star

What is it?

Under proposed legislation, "Silver Star" rebates would cover 50 percent of the total costs up to $3,000 of various energy-efficiency projects, including adding insulation, sealing ducts, sealing and upgrading windows, roofing, and heating and cooling equipment. "Gold Star" rebates would award $3,000 to homeowners who pay for a full energy audit and follow through on its recommendations to boost the overall energy efficiency of their home by at least 20 percent. Additional rebates are pending.

Deadline

At press time, the Home Star legislation had not been signed into law.

How to collect

Consumers would get the rebate from professionals, who would then apply for reimbursement.

For more information

Go to www.efficiencyfirst.org.