Greener Home, Greener Wallet: Energy-Efficiency Incentives in the DC AreaGovernments are vowing to slash carbon emissions. DC, for one, has committed to cutting the city's greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2020. To meet ambitious goals, officials are offering rebates, tax credits, and other measures to encourage residents to shift toward greater energy efficiency. Here's where to find the incentives in the DC area.
If you're a DC homeowner with a single-family home or townhouse of less than 4,000 square feet, you can get a free home energy audit. Such audits, which usually cost up to $500, check your airflow, air quality, insulation, and lighting efficiency.
DC's Renewable Energy Incentive Program encourages residents and businesses to shift to greener energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. The program is no longer accepting new prequalification applications until FY 2012.
DC's ENERGY STAR® Appliance Rebates program provides rebates to residents who replaced wasteful appliances with new energy-efficient appliances on or after October 25, 2010. Rebates are first-come, first-served until funds are exhausted.
Two programs help low-income residents become more energy efficient free of charge: The Appliance Replacement Program will replace low-income residents' old air conditioning units and refrigerators with free ENERGY STAR® appliances. The Weatherization Assistance Program offers qualifying residents help in weatherizing their homes.
Virginia's Division of Energy is offering tax breaks on energy-efficient products like fuel cells, heat pumps, water heaters, furnaces, and ENERGY STAR® appliances.
Virginia-based Washington Gas customers can take advantage of the energy-efficient appliance rebates the company is providing for energy audits and the installation of efficient water heaters and programmable thermostats. Installation of new equipment must occur between Nov. 1, 2010, and Oct. 31, 2011.
The MEA Home Performance Rebate Program offers homeowners a 35 percent rebate (up to $3,100) on home energy improvements costing at least $1,000.
Maryland also offers residents a range of tax credits to encourage increase energy efficiency and alternative fuel usage. These include:
- Bioheat Tax Credit Program for domestic production of renewable fuel sources from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases.
- Clean Energy Production Tax Credit for electricity created by co-firing a qualified resource with coal.
- Clean Energy Incentive Tax Credit Program for businesses that produce and sell certain renewable energy sources or waste materials.
With programs like these, area governments are helping residents save money and become more eco-friendly. Despite what Kermit said, seems like it's pretty easy being green.
Federal Funding for Energy-Efficiency and Renewable EnergyThe federal government plays a big role in helping Americans live greener lives. Tax breaks for clean technologies are powerful drivers of positive change in this area. Congress recently extended tax incentives that encourage homeowners to upgrade the energy-efficiency of their homes through installation of new appliances, heating and air-conditioning products, and insulation.
Here are the programs in question:
- The Residential Energy-Efficiency Tax Credit gives you a return for installing greener appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, central air conditioners, and fans, as well as insulation and new doors, windows, and roofs. Biomass and stoves that use it can also qualify.
- The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit offers a 30 percent break for switching to alternative forms of energy such as solar water heat, photovoltaics, wind power, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, and solar electric technologies.
Wondering which appliances exactly get Uncle Sam to go easy on you? Here's are some resources to get you started:
- Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute Certified Product Directory
- Energy Star Products Page
- U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Savers "Your Home" Page
- American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy: Consumer Resources
The recent legislation also extended the new-homes energy-efficiency credit, which provides a break of up to $2,000 to builders for the construction of greener new homes.
Other incentives, including corporate tax credits, can be found on the handy Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, and a full run-down of the consumer credits can be found on the ENERGY STAR 2001 Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency page. The FAQ section includes information on how to apply for the credits.
If you're more into your car than your house and want to run on alternate fuels-say, natural gas or electricity-the federal government has some love for you, too. Federal incentives in this area include tax credits for alternative fuels and alternative fuel infrastructure, a tax credit for electric vehicles, and tax credits for hybrid cars.
To learn more about all the federal government is doing to promote green living, visit the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy page. One thing you might learn there is that the administration recently launched the $12 million i6 Green Challenge, in which teams around the country compete on innovations that will drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship to build "a green innovation economy" in the U.S.
Breakthrough 21st Century Energy Saving Technologies
An estimated 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the USA are generated by homes. But there are also groundbreaking technologies that help to cut overall energy consumption. Although these are typically used for large government projects, some of these sophisticated technologies are also being adapted to residential applications.
Some engineering companies, for example, now use energy design software that used to be affordable only for the aerospace and automotive industries. But because of recent innovations it is now possible to apply these powerful programs at price points that generate a strong return on investment for those who own apartment buildings, condo developments, and similar residential structures.
One of these amazing energy analysis and audit programs, for example, is DOE-2 software - a futuristic program developed by the U.S. Department of Energy for the design of energy efficient buildings. DOE-2 takes into account such things as site orientation and the availability of natural sunlight and passive solar heat, the quality of particular construction materials, patterns of utility usage based on the number of occupants and the vacancy rates in a leased building, and the price of local utilities like natural gas, water, and electricity.
Energy specialists set a benchmark for the present-day energy performance of a building, for instance, and then plug this data into an interactive computer model of the structure. Then they run the DOE-2 software program and it calculates the hourly energy use and energy cost of the building while predicting how the building will perform annually for a decade or more. Within minutes DOE-2 displays a comprehensive report that details such factors as the building's carbon footprint and a cost breakdown of energy costs.
The program also displays or recommends various alternative approaches for achieving carbon neutrality. Engineers can then experiment with possible solutions by tweaking the virtual building model and instantly find out what the results of an energy retrofit, system upgrade, or floor plan redesign will be. Before actually doing any "brick and mortar" work they get a clear picture of the outcome, and that helps them not only save time, labor, and money but also avoid making design changes that could potentially undermine their energy efficiency goals.
As this kind of technology becomes more commonplace within the residential building industry that will likewise translate into substantial savings for ordinary homeowners.