Sarah Max writing for Money Magazine, picked up by USA Today and now yours truly has five items plus that you might want to keep mind for those summer projects.  Some edits are applied.

First are those Federal rebates. In your local area the money might be gone but here is where to check.  The government’s Cash for Appliances program, which lets you score rebates for about $50 to $500 swapping energy guzzling appliances for more efficient models, has gotten lots of attention.  Incentives, which are administered through the states, are typically doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, and in many locales the money is already gone. Florida’s program, for example, closed just 36 hours after it opened. But some states, such as Michigan, still had plenty of cash in their coffers at the end of May, and other initiatives didn’t launch until June.

Second is most states offer their own programs too. Even if you can no longer qualify for a Cash for Appliances rebate, you may still be able to get cash back from the more than 600 programs run by utilities and over 100 state programs that offer incentives for boosting your home’s energy efficiency.  In Oregon you can get a $75 rebate on an Energy Star washer, and $30 for recycling an old fridge.  This is the link to check.

Third is the Feds may come up with two more chances for taxpayers to recover tax payments from federal funds.  Through the end of 2010, you can claim a $1,500 federal tax credit for up to 30% of the cost of many energy-related improvements.  Cash for Caulkers was passed by the House in May and might soon become law. It would give homeowners hefty rebates on a variety of energy saving projects.  Watch for this in the news – no link yet – the Senate and the president have yet to move on the bill.

Fourth – Get out the calculator and think through your choices.  Getting cash back might help you justify the purchase of, say, that snazzy new stainless-steel fridge.  But other projects may give you greater savings.  A comprehensive home energy audit, which will pinpoint your leaks, runs about $400. But some states or utilities conduct basic audits for free or will reimburse some of that cost.  It’s well worth the effort to find out to save money but add improved resale value, comfort and personal satisfaction, too.

Fifth, remember that small projects can still pay big.  There are plenty of ways to save energy without spending a lot. Every degree you go up or down on your thermostat will knock 2% off your annual heating and cooling costs.  Pull a wad of window screen through the clothes dryer vent and be sure the valve is working.  Replacing your five most frequently used bulbs with compact fluorescents can lop $70 a year off your energy bill – and the new ones are much better and cheaper than just a couple of years ago.  Ditching that old fridge you’ve relegated to the garage for storing extra drinks will save about $200 or more a year – that might justify an appliance upgrade – rebates considered or not. It’s likely the current kitchen unit will be more efficient – move it out there if you must.

Other ideas are as simple as a power strip or surge suppressor strip to mount the chargers – load all chargers there and switch it off when not working. The same applies to the computers.  Off isn’t always fully off.  Here the costs really add up and they probably do for you, too.

Getting an energy audit might seem pricey, but over time the report will pay for itself and having it in the file shows where to keep an eye out for your home.

Electricity and natural gas aren’t going to get cheap anytime soon.  There are way too many players in the business, statutory, regulatory fields and the attitudes and goals for abundant and cheap are simply not being thought through for consumers.  It’s really a consumer “look out for yourself” situation.

With the summer doldrums, vacation and time off, honey do’s there’s probably time now.

One might even get set for adding insulation, replacing windows and doors and considering a heating and air conditioning upgrade.  With those insulation and air loss items upgraded a new system might be smaller and cheaper than what’s installed now.  Properly sized, a new unit will be more comfortable, making the thermostat adjustments much easier and actually more appropriate for comfort. That and many vendors are getting up to speed with calculating software that far better shows the range of sizing new units.

The resources needed for individuals to get a handle on home energy use have never been better, easier and effective.  The savings could be significant, comfort better, and the satisfaction gratifying.  It’s a good time to be a conservative.


2 Comments so far

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