Being energy efficient can be as simple as replacing heating and air conditioning units, tossing out current windows for thermal ones and patching up cracked walls for better insulation.
On November 9, Vice President Joe Biden rolled out three new incentives that emerged from the Recovery Through Retrofit report, which makes it affordable for the environmentally conscious to equip their homes and businesses with renewable energy technologies.
These new incentives would allow for customised energy score reports at lower costs, loans for retrofitting at lower interest rates and a rebate program that needs to be approved by Congress. These incentives he hoped would cut greenhouse emissions, create new jobs and alter energy consumption habits.
The government also has other tax credits, deductions, funding and loan programs that are pushing energy efficiency across America.
As part of the Recovery Through Retrofit, Vice President Joe Biden announced the Department of Energy's Home Energy Score program which will provide Americans with low-cost energy audits telling them how to make their homes more energy efficient. These consultations will cost about half that of private ones.
The Department of Housing and Urban development through the Recovery Through Retrofit report, will provide home-owners with federally insured Power Saver loans, at an interest rate lower than the market rate, capped at $25,000, in 2011.
Homestar, the third incentive, is an energy efficiency rebate program that offers homeowners up to $1,500 silver star rebates for replacing energy inefficient appliances in their homes and $3,000 in gold star rebates for acting on home energy audits.
Under the Business Energy Investment's corporate tax credit, solar technology, fuel cells and small wind turbines are allowed credits of 30% of expenditure with no maximum credit limit while geothermal systems, microturbines and combined heat and power allow for credit of 10% of expenditure with no maximum credit limit. Taxpayers in the commercial, industrial, utility and agricultural sectors are eligible for this credit.
The 1603 program provides federal grants instead of tax credits to commercial property owners. The grants cover 30% of the basis of property of solar energy, fuel cells, small wind turbines and qualified facilities like wind energy or trash facilities.There is a cap of $1,500 per 0.5 kW for a fuel cell property.
It also covers 10% of the basis of the property of microturbines, geothermal heat pumps and combined heat and power facilities. Applicants looking to fund non-business and residential energy properties are not eligible for these grants and applications need to be filed before October 1, 2011.
Consumers who buy biomass stoves, heating, ventilating and air conditioning units, non-solar water heaters, insulation and roof materials, and windows and doors are eligible for residential energy efficiency tax credits for up to 30% of the cost with a maximum of $1,500. The application expires December 31, 2010.
Consumers are also granted 30% of the cost with no cap for geothermal heat pumps, small wind-turbines and solar energy systems. There's also a 30% credit on fuel cells with an upper limit of $500 per .5 kW. These credits extend till December 31, 2016. Rental homes do not qualify.
The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, is a personal tax credit with an upper limit of $2,000 for solar electric systems and solar water heaters that were in service before January 1, 2009. There is a $4,000 limit of wind turbines and $2,000 limit geothermal heat pumps in service in 2008.
The loan guarantee program focuses on projects that cost over $25 million and covers solar thermal electric and heat, tidal and wave energy, fuel cells, daylighting and other renewable technologies. The loan has to be repaid in 30 years or less. This includes the ATVM (advanced technology vehicle manufacturing) loan program which provides loans to establish, re-quip or expand ATVM facilities.
Home owners looking for an energy upgrade on current homes could qualify for an energy improvement mortgage, while the energy efficient mortgage aims at increasing the purchasing power of consumers. The loans are insured through federal housing authority and veterans affairs programs.
Aimed at bioenergy, geothermal, hydrogen, solar, wind and hydro power technologies and energy efficient projects, REAP loan programs allow for loans that amount to 75% of the project's costs with a lower limit of $5,000 and an upper limit of $25 million. 88% of the funding is set aside for small rural businesses and agricultural producers. They are also available to state government entities, local governments, tribal governments and universities.
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