Saving power and money as old man winter pays early visit
Did the blast of cold weather that swept across the South last week suddenly remind you about the chilly air leaking into your home, and the insulating you meant to do last year?
If so, you have time to address those money-wasting leaks before winter truly sets in, and you have time to get a tax credit for some of the expense.
It’s not a huge tax credit, but if you plan to add some insulation or replace a few windows, you might as well do it before Dec. 31 and save a little money.
If your plans are more ambitious, such as installing expensive heating and cooling equipment or spending thousands of dollars on a professional home-sealing job, I have some tips for that, too.
First, the tax credit.
On 2013 federal returns you can claim a tax credit — a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill — equal to 10 percent of the cost of certain home efficiency improvements, up to a maximum of $500.
The tax credit applies to work on a primary residence.
For example, if you go out and buy $100 worth of insulation, you can get $10 back as a tax credit. If you buy qualifying windows that cost $2,000, you could get $200 back.
It’s not a large enough tax benefit to justify running out and buying new windows, but if you’re going to buy them anyway, might as well get 10 percent back.
The credit can be claimed for insulation products, ranging from large rolls of insulation to cans of spray foam; for Energy Star qualified doors, windows and skylights; metal roofs with appropriate pigmented coatings, and asphalt roofs with “appropriate cooling granules.”
There are also fixed-rate tax credits of up to $300 for very efficient HVAC equipment and water heaters (electric ones don’t count unless they are heat-pump water heaters).
In any case, you can only claim a total of $500 in tax credits, installation costs don’t count toward the credit, and if you claimed the Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit in previous years, that counts against the $500 limit.
Also, you can claim only $200 of the credit for windows.
For those planning expensive energy-efficiency upgrades, check out programs offered by utility companies.
When I upgraded the insulation in my home and had the HVAC ducts sealed a few years ago, I got a check from SCE&G that offset some of the expense.
The utility continues to offer rebates, which can be worth as much as $2,500. To participate, homeowners need to start by having a home energy audit performed to figure out what improvements make sense.
An energy audit might cost $200 to $400, but if you complete at least one of the recommended improvements, SCE&G will rebate $200 toward the audit cost. Additional rebates depend on work that’s done by a contractor you select.
For example, you could get a $50 rebate for having a programmable thermostat installed, a rebate worth 25 percent of the cost of improving insulation, and a $300 rebate for installing a very efficient HVAC system. Do all three, and SCE&G would throw in another $400.
If you’re able to piggyback the SCE&G rebates and the federal tax credit, you could, for example, get $550 back on the purchase of an efficient nonconventional water heater.
For details visit sceg.com.
If you’re a Berkeley Electric Cooperative customer, it will work with customers to figure out energy-saving improvements, loan the customer money for the work (at 5 percent interest), and add the loan payments to the power bills.
If it works as intended, power bills would stay about the same, with the reduced consumption offset by the loan payments, and the customer ends up with a more comfortable home with little or no out-of-pocket cost. For details, check out the HomeAdvantage Program at becsc.com.
Berkeley Electric also has a rebate program for water heaters, called H2O Advantage.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postand courier.com