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GREEN HOMES

Little-Known Omission in Energy Bill Hits Homeowners Hard

Congress failed to renew energy efficiency tax credits

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Conceptual photo of a lightbulb in front of a dollar bill, illustrating energy efficiency and conservation.
Photo: IStock

By Brian Clark Howard

The valuable federal Home Energy Efficiency Improvement Tax Credits for consumers have now expired, as of the end of December.

Ronnie Kweller, a spokesperson for the Alliance to Save Energy, says a renewal of the credits had been part of the most recent federal energy bills, but they did not make it into the final version that was sent to the President. "We're now hoping to get them extended this year, by attaching them to another bill later in the year, but obviously there is a gap," said Kweller.

This is bad news for homeowners, many of whom have seen substantial benefit from the tax credits, particularly in an age when utility bills keep rising, the housing market is declining, and job growth has been soft.

Enacted as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the energy efficiency credits were designed as a one-time income tax credit of up to $500 for installing efficient new windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in your home. Guidelines of eligibility made sure the credit was only applied to worthy items (generally, Energy Star certification covered it, though certain heating and cooling items had even higher standards).

The only home improvements that qualify must have been placed in service from January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2007.

The good news is commercial energy efficiency tax credits have been extended by Congress through the end of 2008, for builders and tenants of commercial buildings. Businesses can get deductions up to $1.80 per square foot for new or renovated buildings that save 50% or more of projected annual energy costs for heating, cooling and lighting compared to model national standards. Partial deductions of $.60 per square foot can be claimed for efficiency improvements to individual lighting, HVAC and water heating, or envelope systems. Get more details here.

Further, homeowners still have until the end of this year to take advantage of the extended tax credits for installing renewable energy projects, from electricity-generating solar panels to solar hot water heaters and even fuel cells.


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