Lowering the light bill

Consumers have been conscientious about buying energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, but according to the UK Energy Research Center many are now actually using more energy.
Before energy efficient appliances and lights, consumers carefully turned off lights and limited electric use. However, after buying an energy-efficient dishwasher, they run it more often or when it’s not full. Studies also show that people who use energy-efficient lights lose 5 percent to 12 percent of expected utility bill savings by leaving lights on longer.
With energy-efficient heating and cooling, studies show consumers feel less guilty about setting the heat a degree or two higher in winter and or lower in summer.
By doing these things, they actually defeat the purpose of saving energy.

‘Zero energy’ homes

The Department of Energy reports that more families are showing an interest in zero-energy homes, a design meant to produce as much electricity as it uses.

The Energy Policy Act provides a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the system’s cost up to a maximum of $2000 when purchasing a new home with solar equipment. It’s part of a nationwide effort to reduce home energy consumption.

For more information about the tax credits, visit www.energystar.gov.

Energy savers are tax deductible

Tax credit provisions of the energy bill went into effect on January 1. Here are some of the credits available.

30 percent of the cost of solar panels, plus 30 percent for a solar water heater. Credits are capped at $2,000 and are available for 2006 and 2007 installations.

10 percent of the cost of energy-saving doors, windows, insulation, and roofs, plus up to $300 for efficient central air conditioners and water heaters powered by natural gas, propane, or oil. You can also claim $150 for efficient furnaces and $50 for energy-saving fans. You can only claim $500 in total for this group with just $200 for windows.

You can get a tax credit of up to $3,400 for a hybrid car or light truck. This offer is good between January 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2010. Once your car’s manufacturer sells more than 60,000 hybrids, what you can claim will be less.

Homeowners, buyers like solar

New one-time tax break makes sun power attractive

Congress has renewed and increased the tax credit for wind power, solar power, geothermal and other energy saving power plans.

Buyers of green homes will benefit, but homeowners who install solar power in their present homes will get a 30 percent one-time investment credit in 2009. If you install a typical $25,000 solar panel system on your roof, you will get $7,500 in income tax credits. That’s up from a $2,000 credit under the old arrangement.

Home builders are finding that including solar power attracts more buyers. Big builders such as Centex and Pulte are including them more often. Even in a soft housing market, when Standard Pacific Homes put solar systems in a group of new models in a development, they sold out. The builder decided to put solar panels on all 304 homes in the development.

Sun power is most attractive in markets where energy costs are the highest, such as California, Connecticut and New Jersey. At OnGrid Solar, an industry research firm, they predict that the pretax rate of return on a typical solar system in these areas will be better than 15 percent each year.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which studies the effects of eco-features on real estate values, says more homeowners now view solar panels as a long-term asset.