Monday, December 1, 2008

New Tax Credits for Green Home Improvements

These days I'm in a thrifty way. A lot of us are. That's why I'm thrilled about all the tax incentives available to help us with the sometimes high costs of going green.

The information below was taken from a Hartford Courant article entitled "Saving Green By Going Green" written by David Funkhouser and published November 23, 2008. I thought it was good reading, and a reminder that even though I got a quote of $10,000 to put up solar panels for a hot water system, I can get a tax credit of $2000, which sounds good to me! It's definitely an investment, and in this case, a long-term one before realizing any savings, but seeing as how we don't have plans to move anytime soon (infact I'm sure my husband plans on staying in this house forever) it's something we've investigated.

http://www.courant.com/business/realestate/hc-hreenergycredit1123.artnov23,0,1500803.story

Here's a summary of the programs out there:

Federal Tax Incentives

Conservation tax credits were renewed and expanded this October as part of legislation that aims to shore up the troubled financial sector. Certain rating and efficiency guidelines will apply, so consult your contractor or supplier.

• For home improvements such as insulation, caulking, energy-efficient windows, doors and roofs, non-solar water heaters and certain high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment: tax credits up to $500, depending on the item. Must be put in service in 2009.

• Solar energy systems: tax credit for 30 percent of the cost of hot water and photovoltaic systems placed in service between Jan. 1, 2006, and 2016. Through this year, there is a $2,000 cap; starting in 2009, the cap is lifted for photovoltaic systems, but not for solar water heaters.

• Geothermal heat pumps: tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $2,000. For systems installed from 2009 through 2016.

• Fuel cells: tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500 per half kilowatt of capacity maximum. For systems installed from 2006 through 2016.

• Wind power: tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $500 per half kilowatt of capacity, up to a total of $4,000, for small wind turbine systems put in service from 2008 to 2016. There also are energy-related tax credits for home builders and tax deductions for commercial buildings. For details: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits.
Connecticut Incentives

• Sales tax: Some heating systems and weatherization products are exempt from the state sales and use tax, including water heaters, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, programmable thermostats, room air conditioners, water coolers, battery chargers, insulation, weatherstripping and caulking, windows and doors. Some items must meet federal Energy Star standards or minimum efficiency ratings. Also exempt: compact fluorescent light bulbs.Also exempt from the sales tax: "Class I" renewable energy systems (solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, etc.) and hydropower facilities that generate electricity for private residential use, for systems installed on or after Oct. 1, 2007, and that serve single-family homes or multifamily dwellings up to four units.

• Property tax: Renewable energy systems used in private residences of up to four units and installed on or after Oct. 1, 2007, are exempt from property tax. Towns may but are not required to offer a limited exemption for older systems.Any passive or active solar water or space heating system or geothermal energy resource also is exempt from property taxes, regardless of the type of facility the system serves.Municipalities are authorized, but not required, to offer a property tax exemption for qualifying combined heat and power systems installed on or after July 1, 2007.

• Rebates for photovoltaic systems: The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (www.ctcleanenergy.com) offers rebates that can add up to half the cost of residential and commercial photovoltaic electric systems. For residential, it will pay up to about $40,000 per household, under certain guidelines.The state also has begun a leasing program for residential photovoltaic systems. The program requires no down payment and has low fixed monthly payments — less than $120 per month for a typical 5 kilowatt system.

• Energy conservation loans: available for single families through the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund ( www.chif.org) to owners of one- to four-family homes who meet income limits for family size and location.The loans — up to $25,000 for homeowners with up to four units, or $60,000 for a larger multifamily building — may be used for a variety of energy conservation improvements.

• Net metering: The state requires Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating to provide net metering. That means if you generate enough electricity using sources such as solar or wind, they have to credit you for your excess power.The state and utility companies also have various loans and rebates for businesses, commercial and industrial customers for energy efficiency efforts. The Clean Energy Fund's Affordable Housing Initiative gives grants to developers for solar photovoltaic systems installed in affordable housing projects. A second program helps finance commercial onsite, renewable energy systems, such as wind turbines, fuel cells, solar, hydropower or biomass.

Cleaner Energy In Your Community
The Connecticut Clean Energy Options program allows customers of CL&P or UI to buy power generated from renewable resources such as wind, small hydro and landfill gas. You buy power, at a slightly higher price, through your electric service provider. Contact your utility or go to www.ctcleanenergy.com.If your community has joined the Connecticut Clean Energy Communities program, by joining Clean Energy Options you can help your city or town qualify for a free solar electric system or other renewable system for a public building. As of Nov. 1, the rules of the program changed slightly.
Besides committing to the use of more renewable-source energy, communities also must agree to reduce energy use by 10 percent, as part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency's Community Energy Challenge.At least 17 communities in Connecticut have already signed on. (Go to www.epa.gov/ne/eco/energy/energy-challenge.html.)

Online Resources

• U.S. Green Building Council: www.usgbc.org.
• A searchable list of incentives, state-by-state: www.dsireusa.org.
• Information on federal energy efficiency tax credits: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits.
• The EPA: www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/tools/funding.htm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Courant's Rick Green's article on Smart Growth

As a Realtor, I can't possibly be against development. It wouldn't make any sense for me to be in this business. I do believe that some developments (including commercial developments) are better planned and executed than others, and that some are downright awful. I also believe that development can be done responsibly, following the ideas of smart growth. A great, GREAT resource for information on this is http://www.smartgrowth.org/

Locally, we have an advocate group for responsible development, 1,000 Friends of Connecticut. I feel their input is important because, among other things, they are encouraging discussions about what the Connecticut of the future will look like.

The Hartford Courant's Rick Green wrote an article on Sept. 11, 2008 discussing 1,000 Friends of Connecticut and their new "smart growth scorecard" that I found interesting. The article can be viewed at: http://www.courant.com/news/local/columnists/hc-rgreen0909.art.artsep09,0,5849117.column

I also feel that those of us who sit back and don't get involved shouldn't be allowed to complain when things don't turn out the way we'd like. I encourage everyone to learn more, attend a planning & zoning meeting in your town once in a while, and find out what's going on, before it's too late. Would you rather have towns full of strip malls and big box stores or planned mixed use, pedestrian-friendly communities, putting existing buildings to use?

Nobel Peace Prize Winner to speak on Global Warming in Portland

Andy Bauer, the Portland Clean Energy Task Force Chair sent me this post last night.

Join the Portland Clean Energy Task Force as we are pleased to host:

Gary Yohe: Stories from the IPCC Global Warming is the overriding environmental threat of our time, and the cost to deal with it gets steeper as we delay action. Hear Portland's own Gary Yohe (co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change) explain the economic details. Q & A to follow the presentation.

When: Tuesday, September 16, 7:00pm
Where: Portland Library, 20 Freestone Ave, Portland, CT 06480
Free and Open to the public.