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

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

Greening up your Spring Cleaning

A couple of years ago after being fed up buying bottles of “green” window cleaner that never offered a larger sized re-fill version–I started making a few of my own cleaning products for everyday use around the house. Since then I have enjoyed a home free of that stinky cleaning product smell-which absolutely nauseates me just thinking about it, and keeps my lean budget a little meatier. I also get a great sense of satisfaction making something that works just as well and sometimes even better than some chemically engineered toxic compound.

I’m not saying to dump all your cleaning products down the sink—that would be insane and it could actually come back to haunt you by ending up in your water supply in diluted form! Use up what you have and then if you can try to reuse the spray bottle container. If you can’t reuse what you have a simple trip to your local hardware store or janitorial supply store will do the trick.

Here are some of my favorite solutions that are easy to make—and more importantly…they smell great and are effective!

Here is what you’ll need to pick up to start making your own cleaners:

Baking Soda

Lemon Juice (bottled works-fresh is best!)

White Vinegar (I buy it by the gallon)

Kosher Salt

Pure Castile Soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap)

Tea Tree Oil (Try your natural food store)

1. Great abrasive cleaner *works fantastic in the bathroom and kitchen

In the tubsprinkle surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a stiff bristled brush or scrubber sponge. To tackle soap scum, sprinkle on some kosher salt w, and work up some elbow grease.

You can also make a paste out of baking soda and water for tough stains or really grimy areas like the oven—even letting it sit overnight …spray on little white vinegar let the chemical reaction happen and watch that stainless steel sink, stove top, or refrigerator shelves and bins sparkle!!

Mold or mildew in the shower or on the curtain? Try spraying white vinegar or even lemon juice—let it sit for a few minutes then hit it with a stiff bristled brush or a hard toothbrush in between grout lines.

2. Disinfectant that smells fabulous *great bleach alternative.

Mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 25 drops of tea tree oil. This works great in the bathroom in the sink and around/in the toilet! You can adjust the fragrance by selecting a scented castile soap…I like eucalyptus and peppermint!

3. Windows with a streak free finish

Combine 4 tablespoons of white vinegar per gallon of warm water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray solution on windows or any glass surface (coffee tables, bathroom mirrors etc.) and use one of Dad’s old undershirts or even newspapers to produce the cleanest windows you’ve ever seen.

*If you don’t like the smell of white vinegar you can use a mixture of lemon juice and club soda.

4. Floor cleaner *can be used on hardwood, tile or linoleum

You can keep your floors clean by combining 3 ¾ cups of warm water and ¼ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle or a bucket, mop floor as you usually would. If you need some grit for hard to clean areas try using kosher salt for a scratch free abrasive floor cleaner that is safe.

Use caution when washing walls—this solution did discolor a piece of painted wall when I became a little over zealous in my cleaning efforts…try a test area first in a very unnoticeable spot!

5. Drain Cleaner *works for slow moving drains—untested on a blocked one

Drain cleaner is probably the most dangerous chemical I have ever brought into my house…recently I had a slowly draining bathroom sink and tried a non lethal remedy…guess what—it actually worked!

Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain (unscrew the stopper if you can for better access) pour an entire tea kettle or if you are using a nuker about 4 cups of boiling water into the drain.

If that still doesn’t do the trick—replace the sink stopper and add more baking soda then pour ½ cup of white vinegar into the drain. Cover tightly by closing the stopper, allowing the fizzies created by the chemical reaction to break down the greasy grimy clog. Flush with another tea kettle of boiling water.

Happy cleaning!!

Posted by Amanda | Follow me on twitter

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

Have an eco and wallet friendly Valentines Day

How do you stay green and celebrate a holiday that is as artificially created as cubic zirconia? I’ve been asking myself this question for a couple of weeks prompted by facebook posts and tweets about Valentines Day gifts. I’ve fielded questions from people asking what my boyfriend and I are doing for Valentines Day or even worse what I’m planning on buying him…which by the way, I am clueless and have no answer for…or do I?!

Don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of romance—when it’s genuine, heartfelt and thoughtful. Romantic gifts do not include a teddy bear wearing an ugly heart shaped necklace—unfortunately large advertising jewelry stores will lead thousands of men and women to believe that it does by cramming poorly acted commercials conveying so down TV viewers throats every five minutes…but wait it comes in an extra fugly jewelry box!

While the greenest way to celebrate Valentine’s Day would be to stay in, cook a meal made from fresh locally caught fish, grass fed beef and produce from within 250 miles of your home, I do realize that there are folks out there who still like to shower their significant other in gifts.

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas (which are in no way hints for my boyfriend, thankfully he is 100% competent in his gift giving abilities) that I also think are affordable, green and cool!

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The Green Glass Company makes beautiful tumblers, vases and even candle holders out of re-used glass bottles of all types.

If you live in a state where you can actually by wine in the mail (boo to Rhode Island for not allowing it…) there are a few Organic Wine Companies that do wine of the month clubs. This would be a great way to make Valentines Day last all year!

Any of you absolutely dread or even loathe the greeting card section of any store like me… Well how about shopping online for a gorgeously handmade card that is crafted with love like those found at Designs by Becca at my favorite online store of all time Etsy.com. What about those that aren’t quite “In Love” with their Valentine but in a serious state of liking…even adoration…? These cute witty cards from UpUp Creative can help you express yourself in a non-dramatic over the top kind of way.

Chocolate is always a great idea, how about putting a little extra effort in and make them at home…they’ll be fresh, local and your Valentine will adore you for making them by hand.

Instead of over-priced roses, how about a small rose plant—or if you know your Valentines favorite flower, shrub, fruit tree, etc. how about buying a baby one that they can plant outside in the warmer months?

Of course for those of us who are great procrastinators it may be too late for this year, but you get the idea…you don’t have to spend a ton of money, or buy useless senseless things to show your Valentine you care. Instead make wise choices that are not only eco friendly…but are wallet friendly too!

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

A Green (and cheap!) Way to Get Textbooks for School

As a Political Science and Writing major in college, my textbooks were never too outrageously priced.  There might have been an International Policy text that set me back a bit, but for the most part, I watched my friends in nursing, engineering and physics spend $150+ per textbook every semester.  At the end of class, the bookstore might have offered students $25-$30 for the same book they spent well over $100 on – and that’s if the publisher hadn’t put out a newer version in the meantime, rendering yours useless.

This time around, as an MBA student, my business texts are insanely priced (I paid $186 for my managerial accounting book and that was heavily used!) and I was shopping around for a better way to save money.  That’s when I stumbled across Chegg, a site that allows students to rent textbooks for a fraction of the cost of buying.  After doing some research, I found my Finance book for my next class and clicked the 6o-day rental option.  The price for this $200+ text?  $56.60 plus $1.99 shipping.

In addition to the $160 or so I saved in the process of renting, Chegg offers to plant a tree for every textbook rented through the American Forests Global ReLeaf Program and lets you choose the region of the world you’d like to have it planted.

The tree planting isn’t the only thing about Chegg that’s green – by reusing a textbook that otherwise might find its way to the trash after many years of sitting on a shelf, you are helping to prevent waste and unnecessary manufacturing of new copies.

And Chegg is flexible – their 30 day return policy allows you return a text for whatever reason (dropped class, text unused, etc) for a full refund – no questions asked.

So join Chegg (and me, for sure!) in the “Don’t Buy Revolution” – it will definitely save you some green while supporting the planet.

Posted by: Ashley / follow me on Twitter



Energy Efficient Window Treatments

 

When people are choosing window treatments for their homes, most often times their primary concern is decoration or privacy. But window treatments can be a major factor in how energy efficient your home is. Selecting the right treatment can help you lower energy consumption in your home which is not only good for the earth, but good for your wallet as well.

Window shades can be very effective at preventing heat loss in the winter if they are installed correctly. Shades should be mounted as close to the glass as possible and the sides should be held close to the wall. This will create a sealed air space that will make it difficult for heat to escape. Raising the shades on sunlit windows during the day and then lowering them at night will help make the shades as energy efficient as possible. Also, consider dual shades as they are highly reflective (white) on one side and heat absorbent (black) on the other.

To prevent heat gain in the summer, blinds may be your best option. Blinds don’t do very much good when trying to prevent heat loss as the numerous openings between the slats   make it difficult to control how much heat you lose. However, when it comes to reducing heat gain, blinds have an advantage over shades because these slats can be adjusted to control ventilation and light. Highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45% when completely closed and lowered on a sunny window.

The material is also very important when selecting an energy efficient window treatment. The best way to check a treatment’s energy efficiency is to look at the R-Value and Shading Coefficient. The R-Value will tell you the material’s effectiveness in preventing heat loss while the Shading Coefficient tells you how much heat is coming through the window. So, for example, if you are more concerned with heat loss than you are with heat gain, you would want to choose a material with a high R-Value and a low Shading Coefficient.

No one treatment is the most energy efficient for every situation. It mostly depends on the region you live in and what your primary insulation needs are. But as long as you keep all of these things in mind, you’ll be able to choose a treatment that looks great and is energy efficient as well.

Richard Moyle is the Internet Marketing Coordinator for Horizon Window Treatments.

Horizon is the largest and most trusted retailer of window treatments in New York City.