Since I’m currently living as an expatriate in Sweden, I have been watching the stimulus package action from afar — with envy! Details are now emerging on how U.S. homeowners can take advantage of tax credits for energy-efficient improvements: a 30 percent rebate, up to a max of $1,500 for most projects. (The old federal tax credit was 10 percent up to a max of $500.)
Our small wooden house was built in 1900 and could use some help in the efficiency area. Double- and triple-paned windows are the norm in Sweden, so we’re doing OK in that department, but that’s about the only thing energy-efficient about our house (aside from our own efforts to reduce consumption).
Here are three ways I would take advantage of the federal handout:
Switch to a tankless water heater. This has been an eco-dream of mine ever since someone compared keeping a tank of water hot 24 hours a day to keeping a car idling on your driveway – both use tons of energy to keep something at the ready. You wouldn’t keep a car warm 24/7. But almost all of us keep our water warm, even if we only use it for a five-minute shower and dish rinsing most days. Tankless water heaters heat water only as you need it. Our hot water heater is about 10 years old, making it a good candidate for replacement. (Note: Only Energy Star gas tankless heaters qualify for the tax credit.)
- Boost attic insulation. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Zip Code Insulation Program will tell you how much insulation you need based on your location. There are a variety of eco-friendly options – some even use recycled denim jeans and newspapers – and you can enjoy a 5 to 25 percent drop in your energy bills and trim about 2,000 lbs of CO2 emissions from your carbon footprint. Gaiam Life offers great tips on 25 places to weatherize your home.
- Go geothermal. Has the residential geothermal buzz hit the States like it has out here? It’s hard to believe that there is enough heat a few feet below the surface to keep a whole house warm, but it’s true (even in chilly Scandinavia). Since sun is not something we have a lot of in Sweden, this is a homeowner’s renewable energy of choice. And the really exciting part is that the rebate on geothermal systems is a full 30 percent – no cap!
Hopefully we’ll be back in the States by 2010, so we can do these kinds of home improvements at a discount.
And you? Has the rebate sparked your own project ideas? Post your comments below.