Federal Tax Credits Return for Efficiency Improvements to Homes

January 7, 2009

As you're ringing in the New Year, it might also be a good time to search your home for air leaks, insufficient insulation, or heating and cooling equipment that needs updating. That's because the start of 2009 has also revived the federal tax credits for energy efficiency improvements to homes. Although the original tax credit expired at the end of 2007, it was revived this year as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which President Bush signed back in October 2008. As noted by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), federal tax credits are now available for 10% of the cost of insulation, storm doors, and Energy Star-qualified "cool roofs," up to a limit of $500; for 10% of the cost of exterior windows and skylights, up to a limit of $200; for up to $300 on new high-efficiency air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters, and corn-fueled stoves; and for up to $150 on high-efficiency furnaces and boilers. Those tax credits expire at the end of this year, but there's also a tax credit for 30% of the cost of Energy Star-qualified geothermal heat pumps, up to a limit of $2,000, and that doesn't expire until 2016. For details, see the ASE press release and tax credit Web page.

As noted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act also extended a federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of both residential and commercial solar energy installations, while eliminating a $2,000 cap on the tax credit for residential solar electric installations. The law also established a tax credit for 30% of the cost of residential wind energy systems, fuel cells, and microturbines, with different caps on each type of system, and all of these clean energy tax credits are good through 2016. According to SEIA, the solar investment tax credit provisions will also allow filers of the Alternative Minimum Tax to still take the tax credit, although anyone planning to file for a tax credit should first seek the advice of a tax professional. See the SEIA press release and a summary of all the federal tax credits on the Energy Star Web site.