Keep Old Man Winter at Bay
Energy upgrades offer a double payoff, thanks to tax credits
O solar mio! For consumers seeking to make a big home energy change, there's a seemingly large tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of a system. But the benefit is capped at $2,000, and a roof photovoltaic solarsystem can easily cost $20,000, so the benefit might come in closer to 10 percent. Some lower-cost solar options eligible for the credit include solar water heating (not for pools) and whole-home solar thermal heating. More information is available at www.findsolar.com.
Other consumers may simply want to install a few compact fluorescent light bulbs in highly used areas. Even though they cost at least five times as much as regular bulbs, they use one third the energy and last up to 10 times longer-paying for themselves in a few months. Wal-Mart recently launched a major campaign to sell each of its 100 million customers at least one CFL bulb within the next year. The government estimates that if every U.S. home replaced just one light bulb with a CFL, the nation "would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars."
That's the connection between home and environment that Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, is hoping consumers begin to realize. "An individual can have a significant impact on reducing the environmental consequences of energy use and at the same time do something good from a personal-finance perspective," Callahan says. "We're not asking them to sacrifice; we're asking them to stop wasting."