If you needed a motivator to do some home winterizing projects, the IRS recently sweetened the deal. 
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), enacted earlier this year, expanded two home energy tax credits: the non-business energy property credit and the residential energy efficient property credit. 

That means you can perform energy-saving home improvements and reduce your 2009 tax hit. The credit equals 30 percent of what you spend on eligible energy-saving improvements, up to a maximum tax credit of $1,500 for the combined 2009 and 2010 tax years. The IRS says that by spending as little as $5,000 before the end of this year on eligible upgrades, taxpayers can save as much as $1,500 on their federal tax return. 

What included? The cost of certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass all qualify, along with labor costs for installing these items. 

The cost of energy-efficient windows and skylights, energy-efficient doors, qualifying insulation and certain roofs also qualify for the credit, though the cost of installing these items does not count. 

Before making any investments, be sure to check with your accountant or the IRS to be certain that your upgrades qualify for the credit. Some other low-cost home winterizing tips:
  • Use a programmable thermostat. When installed and used correctly, you may be able to save $180 each year.
  • Get a tune-up for your furnace and change your furnace filter monthly. Clean filters create better air flow, while dirty filters can hike energy usage.
  • Reduce drafts by sealing air leaks and add insulation to keep precious heat from escaping. The EPA estimates that homeowners can typically save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs (or up to 10 percent of total energy costs) by air sealing their homes and adding insulation in attics, floors over crawl spaces, and accessible basement rim joists.
  • Get a window insulation kit from the hardware store to keep drafts at bay.

Top Energy-Efficient States 

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently took a look at how well states are doing at implementing energy efficiency and it ranked the top states based on how well they perform in six categories. The categories in the 2009 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard were: 

1. Utility-sector and public benefits programs and policies 
2. Transportation polices 
3. Building energy codes 
4. Combined heat and power 
5. State government initiatives 
6. Appliance efficiency standards 

“States continue to raise the bar with comprehensive strategies to improve efficiency in their buildings, industry and transportation systems," commented Maggie Eldridge, ACEEE research associate and lead author of the report. "They are the ‘living laboratories’ of energy efficiency.” 

The 10 states doing the most to implement energy efficiency are: 

1. California 
2. Massachusetts 
3. Connecticut 
4. Oregon 
5. New York 
6. Vermont 
7. Washington state 
8. Minnesota 
9. Rhode Island 
10. Maine 

The ACEEE also gave a nod to states that moved up the ranks from 2008 to 2009, including Colorado (up from 24 to 16), Delaware (up from 32 to 20) and South Dakota (up from 47 to 36). “The most improved states are stepping up their efforts in several ways, such as adopting new building energy codes and setting aggressive new energy savings targets,” said Eldridge. 

One conclusion of the report is that "the current economic downturn is not sidetracking state-level efforts to make the most of energy efficiency as the cheapest, cleanest and quickest of all energy resources."
The article is from the Green Resource Council 2009
Debbie Vanderiet
Debbie Vanderiet