With a week left to file, did you remember your energy tax credits?

I finished my takes last week, and all told we are receiving more than $38,000 in tax credits both federal and state from the installation of geothermal system and other ENERGY STAR products in our home in 2009. There were a lot of changes in the tax code this year so if you made home improvements, be sure to give your tax preparer your receipts so you can determine your deductions for 2009.

To find out about rebates in your state, check out the DSIRE website. The ENERGY STAR website also provides great information about Federal rebates.

Rhode Island Tax Credits

Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit for Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps

o    Amount: 25%  based on maximum system cost of $15,000 for PV, active solar space heating and wind and based on $7,000 maximum system cost for solar hot water and geothermal

Renewable Energy Sales Tax Exemption

o    Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaic, Wind, Geothermal Heat Pumps, Solar Pool Heating

o    100% Exemption

People’s Power & Light – Renewable Energy Certificate Incentive

o    Production incentive for photovoltaic and wind

o    $0.03 per kWh with a 3-year contract

Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards

o    Credit amount is based on the product. Proper manufacturer certification will be needed to claim this credit

Federal Tax Credits – visit the ENERGY STAR website for qualifying factors for each credit

Home Improvements

o    Windows & Doors – 10% of cost, up to $200 for all windows, skylights, and storm windows and  10% of cost, up to $500 for exterior and storm doors

o    Roofing –10% of cost, up to $500 for metal and asphalt roofs

o    Insulation — 10% of cost, up to $5000

o    HVAC 

  • $300 for Central AC
  • $300 for Air Source Heat Pumps
  • 30% of the cost up to $2000 for Geothermal Heat Pump
  • $150 for Gas, Oil, Propane Furnace or Hot Water Boiler

o    Water Heaters

  • $300 for gas, oil, propane water heater

o    Biomass Stoves —  $300

Solar Energy Systems

o    30% of the cost up to $2,000 for solar water heating

o    30% of the cost for photovoltaic systems ($2,000 cap no longer applies)

Small Wind Energy Systems

o    30% of the cost, up to $500 per half kW of capacity (not to exceed $4,000)

Fuel Cells

o    30% of the cost, up to $1,500 per half kW of power capacity

 This is the list of tax rebates we applied to our 2009 taxes:

 1. Windows/Doors: $200 for our Pella Windows and $500 for our doors = $700

2. Our composite shingle roof = $500

3. Our spray foam insulation = $500

4. Our Geothermal Heat and AC System = Based on our total cost of $116,754, we have a tax credit of $35,026 federal  and $1750 state credit.

Not too bad I say.

Kimberly Lancaster | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Hating on Enviromentalism

I don’t get it. How can you call caring about the environment “earth-worshipping manure”? Or liberal happycrap?

Do you have to be a liberal to care about the earth or eat local foods that taste great and don’t have chemicals? I mean I fully believe in the death penalty. Hell, I believe in an-eye-for-an-eye. I think welfare is for lazy people looking for handouts and women who aren’t smart enough to understand the concept of birth control.

But really, your saying green is about the liberals and therefore you don’t support it. Do you go to the beach? Ever been there when your three year old got her foot cut on an aluminum can? Really is it that hard to recycle it or just throw it away. Or ever been to a national park where someone just enjoyed a cookout and left all their trash behind? Looks nice don’t you think. Or you think this is about energy because it is so plentiful. Right, cause you aren’t faced with rising energy bills and are 100% for leaving you lights on and blasting your A/C when you are at work because you want to stick it to the liberal man. Ooooh….you showed him and your checking account what burning through an extra 25okWh can do.

My annoyance comes from my recent run ins with random comments and rantings on articles I have read. And honestly I am so tired of this blinders on mentality that the following comments ignited my fury.

ttt4 My nine year old daughter is a girl scout (brownie, actually) and I have to routinely offer an alternative perspective to the ‘mother earth’ environmentalist hogwash that emanates from the scouts these days. We sold hundreds of boxes of overpriced cookies for these guys and for that I get this tree-hugging nonsense. Look, I can believe in some basic concepts of voluntary recycling, but this earth-worshiping manure that is slowly overtaking many of our classic American institutions drives me up the wall.

 
From Well Meaning Gentleman “But is there really a problem anyway? I am not an expert or a physicist BUT, in my recollection of some elementary physical science concepts from my school days (I was listening; we didn’t have text messaging back then), ENERGY CANNOT BE DESTROYED, DIMINISHED OR DEPLEATED, it can only change in form. It seems to me that all this extreme, fear mongering, tree-hugging, earth worshipping, hand-wringing, industry hating, bottled water drinking, global greening, sterilized liberal happycrap is nothing more than a rebellion against the Sovereign God who has created this world for our use and dominion and who will sustain it until He has accomplished His purpose in it.”
 
Climate Change Fraud — What hippies, the WWF and now the US Government forget is that polar bears managed to survive despite the cold and ice, not because of it.  Slightly more pleasant weather will probably see an increase in the number of deadly white killing machines, not their extinction.
 
We have one planet and it is ours to do with what we want. This isn’t a partisan movement it’s our WORLD.  And only human beings could so thoroughly thrash a place in such a short time. For those of us who do in fact care about our sliver of the earth, I applaud you for doing what you can and fighting what seems at times a losing battle. For those of you who don’t care, don’t come crying to us when it finally hits you close to home.
 
Kimberly Lancaster | Twitter

Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative forms to foster adoption of the smart grid

Washington, DC –To help build consumer acceptance and use of the smart grid, a group of smart grid leaders today announced the formation of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC).   The founding members of the SGCC include consumer electronics and technology companies, retailers, consumer advocacy groups, and utilities dedicated to maximizing the value of the grid for consumers.  Launched at DistribuTECH, which is the nation’s largest gathering of energy utilities and technologists, the SGCC will work to understand consumer needs and preferences, reach out to build awareness and educate consumers about the benefits of the smart grid, and share best practices for consumer engagement and empowerment.

The SGCC has three priorities:

1. In-depth research on consumer awareness, acceptance, and use of the smart grid with emphasis on their needs, preferences and priorities 2. Outreach and education to allow consumers to better understand the smart grid, its issues and its potential 3. Development of  best practices to involve and empower consumers  in the roll out of smart grid technologies

The federal stimulus program for the smart grid will reach more than $4 billion and by 2015, nearly half of all North American consumers will have next generation smart meters.   The SGCC wants to ensure these investments engage consumers and deliver the energy efficiency and the savings promised.  Consumer adoption of the new technology and services being deployed is the key to the success of the smart grid.

“For many reasons — energy independence, energy efficiency, integrating renewables, accommodating electric vehicles, and global competitiveness — we must modernize our electric system. But we can’t do that without the support and involvement of the ultimate customer,”  said Jesse Berst, acting Executive Director of the SGCC.  “We formed the SGCC to bring important stakeholders together to do the necessary research, education and collaboration to make sure we include the consumer in the conversation.”

The cross-industry initiative started after Control4, a leader in affordable IP-based home control systems and newcomer to the smart grid space, recognized a common concern emerging from partners, customers, and smart grid conferences; that the industry wasn’t equipped to understand and support consumer reactions to the technology upgrade.  In just a few months’ time, the concept to bring industry leaders together to take on smart grid consumer education became a reality in the formation of the non-profit organization, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.  The broad representation of the group and support from established smart grid and consumer advocacy organizations reinforces the importance of the SGCC’s mission.

“There’s been intense work and focus on the technology, energy efficiency and economic advancements the smart grid enables, but if we as an industry don’t turn our attention to the consumer, to drive participation and acceptance, the real promise of the smart grid, energy independence, can never be realized, ” said Richard Walker, President, Control4 Energy Systems.

“The smart grid is of critical importance to the future of the United States.  The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative will help its member companies to further the transformation of our power grid by focusing specifically on the energy consumer,” said Guido Bartels, General Manager of Energy and Utilities at IBM.  “Along with our utility clients we have long been looking at ways to empower consumers to make informed decisions, so taking on a founding role with this collaborative is a logical next step for IBM.”

“Around the world, countries, including the United States, are realizing the clear need to modernize our electrical infrastructure to support the energy demands of our 21st Century society,” said Bob Gilligan, vice president, GE Energy Services. “A smarter electricity grid will enable us to integrate and optimize more renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as plug-in electric vehicles. It will also increase power reliability and operational efficiencies to deliver greater productivity both for the utility and the consumer.  It will empower consumers to manage their energy usage and save money without compromising their lifestyle. To make this smarter grid a reality, informing and engaging consumers is critical. The SGCC is an opportunity for key stakeholders to work together to better understand consumer needs and articulate the value and benefits of a smart grid for consumers.”

“It is crucial that all stakeholders can work cooperatively to move our industrial-age electric grid into the information age,” said Katherine Hamilton, President GridWise Alliance.  “We have reached a point of deployment where consumers are as important an ingredient as the technology that backs the system and the dollars that fund the modernization of this nation’s new energy economy.  The GridWise Alliance is looking forward to participating in the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative to help consumers reap the benefits of the smart grid.”  The GridWise Alliance is a coalition of 125 organizations advocating for the deployment of a smarter grid for the public good.

“There is a tremendous amount of change going on in the electric world,” said Janine Migden-Ostrander, Ohio’s Consumers’ Counsel. “The availability of carefully designed programs that can benefit residential consumers is key to providing them additional choices and giving them more control over their energy consumption.  But education will be a key component to making the smart grid a useful consumer tool. We are excited to work with the SGCC, to share our knowledge and draw from the expertise the collaborative will offer.” The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), the residential utility consumer advocate, represents the interests of 4.5 million Ohio households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts.

Members from Industry to Consumer Advocacy The SGCC launched today with founding  member companies that span key stakeholder groups, including utilities, technology  and consumer electronics companies, retailers, and consumer advocates.

•     Magnolia/Best Buy

•     Control4

•     Ember

•     General Electric (GE)

•     GridWise Alliance (GWA)

•     IBM

•     NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

•     Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC)

•     Silver Spring Networks (SSN)

Additionally the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (www.drsgcoalition.org) and the Future of Privacy Forum (http://www.futureofprivacy.org/) have  joined as affiliate members, contributing resources to the SGCC.

For more information about the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative,  visit  www.smartgridcc.org.

Electrolux is taking cooking to a whole new level

Electrolux is planning a whole new way to use your stove.  Electronics are taking over and why not add a bit of intelligence to your cooktop?  Electrolux is looking at ways to make pots and pans obsolete.  They want people who enjoy cooking and those without any cooking experience to operate the same stove.  Forget getting sauce splattered all over your cookbook, it’s not even a necessity in the kitchen anymore. 

Henrik  Otto, director of Global Design for Electrolux in Sweden has come up with  smart kitchens of 2050. Otto and his team at Electrolux believe in energy efficient appliances as well as appliances that can serve many different functions.

Here is what they think it would look like.  Electrolux Design Concept “Heart of the home” animation

Heart of the home is a shape shifting cooktop that is directly on your countertop that responds to touch as well as a built in cookbook that responds to touch as well.  Ideally they will design this with a simple touch of the hand able to outline the size of the pot or pan you wish to use, the temperature as well as the texture of the pot or pan.  You will also be able to press down your hand to determine the depth of the pot or pan.  You will be able to move around your pots with a simple touch in order to have what you need in front of you. 

The countertop will also provide holes that allow you to place food or herbs in them and the built in cookbook will pop up recipes.  Otto thinks this will be a great way for people to try new flavors that they wouldn’t have imagined together.  I am hoping this will be coming out before 2050!

Posted by Kate Kiselka, Follow me on Twitter

Healthy Furniture is the Future in a Green Home

The new rage in interior design is eco friendly and healthy fabrics, surfaces, textures and finishes.   People are finding the importance to using local woods and organic material, they are making a change to their carbon footprint, and making changes in order to “green” their lives.  Switching to organic foods, cleaners and even the way they care for their pets and lawn.  Many people have started looking further into organic living and have started to purchase organic materials for their clothing as well as taking a step back and looking at the furniture including their beds which they spend almost half their lives lounging on. 

The things that make a couch structurally sound and comfortable may actually be harmful to humans and their pets.  According to research done by Building Green there is evidence that the flame halogenated retardants used on most couches can be very harmful to animals as well as humans.  Buying a couch that is made with Wool Linings is much safer.

BiOH polyols are a soy based ingredient used in upholstered furniture, bedding, carpet backing and even automobile seats.  The reason the switch to BiOH is such a great choice is because they are made from soy bean oil which is a renewable source unlike traditional foam which is made from petroleum-based products.  It is a comparable product without having such a large environmental footprint.  It is a responsible choice for those looking for an environmentally friendly product. 

Using locally harvested wood for furniture is another important factor when consumers think about green furniture purchases.  The amount of time, money, energy and fuel it costs to ship a piece of wood from one place to another is costly and damaging to the environment.  This is why so many consumers are looking for local manufacturers to purchase their furniture from. 

When we went furniture hunting we wanted a company that had a solid green mission and offered a range of products including natural local woods, natural fabrics, and sourced from local companies.

We fell in love with New England based Circle Furniture, who works with manufacturers that have a commitment to the environment.  Most of the wood products made for Circle are made by people in New England including one of my favorites Maine Cottage which is where we got the bunk beds and bookshelves (picutred below) for Max’s room, Abby’s desk, and the bed and side tables for the guest room. They are locally made with low-VOC paints and finishes and have beautiful natural fabric choices as well. Paints and finishes are one of the leading causes for polluted indoor air according to the EPA.  Paints and finishes allow low level toxic emissions into the air over time.  Volatile Organic Compounds were once important to the performance of the paint, but now low VOC and zero-VOC paints and finishes are available and are becoming very popular and in some cases required by new environmental regulations. 

The same goes for mattresses, we even bought new organic mattresses for the new beds.  Circle also uses Copeland which is a manufacturer that uses woods from forests that are not threatened and do not contain genetically modified trees, making them part of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  Copeland was recently awarded the 2009 Sage Award for reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. We chose this gorgeous Milford “cuddle couch” in a super soft corduroy fabric.

There are so many ways to decorate your home in sustainable style; it is getting much easier every year to find companies that construct attractive furniture using solid woods (FSC certified in some cases), natural fibers and low or no VOC finishes and varnishes. 

Furniture is an investment. As we have moved several times over the years, we’ve actually sold furniture with our house and it was fun to get to buy a number of new eco-friendly furniture pieces for the new house. It is important to note that inexpensive furniture is often made using composite woods that are made from glues that can contain formaldehyde—a known carcinogen!   Furniture treated for stain resistance contains chemicals that can pollute the air in your home.  So though we left off the stain protection we selected pieces with highly durable fabrics and finishes yet didn’t forgo style or comfort to bring green furniture into our home.

Kimberly Lancaster | follow me on Twitter

Want to start your own weatherization business in NE? NESEA offers a class

The residential weatherization industry is expected to grow dramatically as utility programs and government incentives make it more affordable for homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient. Whether it is improving insulation, replacing old windows, or sealing foundations, there will be millions of dollars spent on weatherization projects over the coming years, and there is a strong need for more contractors to provide these services.

At first glance, this makes starting a weatherization business sound very attractive. But there are many questions that should be considered before jumping into the weatherization business. For instance, what does “Weatherization” really mean? What skills, training and resources does it take to start and run your own weatherization contracting business in Massachusetts? What kinds of equipment will you need to buy? How much does your initial investment need to be? What kind of work will you actually be doing, and what kind of training will you have to get in order to be a success? What licenses, certifications, and insurance are required?

To help ypu get started,  MassGREEN Initiative and NESEA BuildingEnergy are offering a wokrshop in order to help you decide if this is really a business you can succeed in.

WHEN: Thursday, March 11, 3:00pm-6:00pm, Federal Complex

Sponsored by the MassGREEN Initiative, this free workshop will help contractors determine what kinds of skills training and resources it takes to start and run your own weatherization contracting business in Massachusetts. Pre-registration is required. You must be registered for the conference or Trade Show on Thursday in order to attend. Call or email Michelle Rose to be put on the list. 413-774-6051 x17; bespeaker@nesea.org.

Instructor: Mark Hutchins, Conservation Services Group

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | newscaster

Skip a flush or change your system!

Skipping a flush just doesn’t seem right, it’s a personal thing for me but I can’t see it being sanitary.  There are so many way’s to go green and to help you save money and in return are also helping the environment.  Putting low flow water heads throughout your home is a huge step.  Putting in a waterless urinal in my bathroom doesn’t really seem like an option so many greenies have suggested to opt on flushing when not truly necessary. 

The average toilet uses between 1.5 gallons and 7 gallons with each flush.  This is an overuse of water in most cases.  Water is one of the biggest green issues, the earth only has so much water, and so much of it is carelessly being used up and polluted.  There are many way’s to make sure your toilet is saving you as much water and money as possible.  The first thing to do is make sure your toilet is running efficiently

Installing a dual flush system is a great choice for those who are concerned about overuse of water.  The system allows two flushing options one with little water for liquid and a little more water for those that need an extra push.  A dual flush system is available for most toilets and for those who are renovating and replacing their existing toilet can purchase a new toilet with it already built in.  Most major toilet manufacturers carry at least one and many people are opting for his option when remodeling.

Saving money and saving water are the two best reasons to switch the way your toilet works now.  Before ordering dual flush, make sure your toilet is compatible.  Studies have shown that toilets that have been replaced with a dual flush toilet have saved almost 17,000 gallons of water a year. 

Posted by Kate Kiselka, follow me on Twitter