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

Green Homes Show Sales Gains in Real Estate Market, at least in the Pacific Northwest

In the pacific northwest, homes certified as eco-friendly sold for 8.5% more per square foot and were on the market 22% less time than other homes, according to the ECert report that tracks new home sales from September 2007 through December 2009. Homes that underwent the strictest certifications sold for 25% more than non-certified homes. Certified home standards included Earth Advantage New Homes, ENERGY STAR®, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® for Homes  (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program.

The Earth Advantage Institute put out their own  report  citing that  green-certified homes in the Portland, Ore., metro area, sold for 12% more than non-certified homes from May 2008 through April 2009. Its analysis, based on data from the Regional Multiple Listing Service, saw a premium per square of $193 for a green certified home verses $173 for other homes. 

“The fact that the number of sustainable homes increased despite a severe slowdown shows that energy efficiency and green building will only be growing in the near future,” said Sean Penrith, executive director of Earth Advantage Institute. “In this economy, consumers are seeing the combined appeal of long-term energy savings with healthier homes that leave less of a carbon footprint.”

posted by Kimberly Lancaster | twitter

5 More States Introduce Energy Efficiency Legislation

Earlier this year, California introduced a much debated energy efficiency legislation that would limit the amount of energy any television could consume as well as steps to ensure proper recycling of old sets. The legislation had many, including the CEA up in arms, explaining that the increased responsibility on the manufacturers would be detrimental to the industry.

Well, so far California legislators haven’t listened to the CEA’s warnings, and now five other states are jumping on the bandwagon and introducing energy legislation of their own.

Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Washington and Wisconsin have all introduced new energy-efficient bills aiming to regulate TVs. The bills in Washington and Massachusetts include additional electronics components beyond TVs, including audio and video products.

The focus of these bills are similar of that of the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program: power consumption in standby mode.

A document supplied by the office of Massachusetts State Rep. Frank Smizik (D), co-sponsor of his state’s bill, indicates that “voluntary programs like Energy Star are valuable, but only reach some consumers.” It adds that it’s “designed to highlight the best 25 [percent] of products available” and that “minimum standards deliver much bigger savings by assuring that all purchases meet a basic level of efficiency performance.”

The proposed legislation in Massachusetts, “An Act Relative to Expanding Energy Efficiency in the Commonwealth,” includes the following regulations:

  • Compact Audio or Shelf Systems — These “shall not use more than 2 watts in standby-passive mode for those without a permanently illuminated clock display and 4 watts in standby-passive mode for those with a permanently illuminated clock display …” 
  • DVD Players — These “shall not use more than 3 watts in standby-passive mode …” 
  • TVs 58 Inches and Under— In tier one, TVs “shall use not more than (0.20*screen area (inches[squared]) + 32) watts in on mode and no more than 1 watt in standby-passive mode. On and after January 1, 2013, televisions shall use no more than (0.12*screen area (inches[squared]) + 25 watts in on mode and no more than 1 watt in standby passive model …”

Each of the legislations vary a bit, but the underlying message is the same. A/V manufacturers need to step up to the plate and begin to develop technology that is energy efficient. There are a handful of manufacturers in the CEDIA industry who have begun to take these steps, but not nearly enough.

As these legislations begin to pass (and they will), it opens a whole set of problems for specialty retailers. They will be forced to sell lower margin, direct to consumer products instead of the better quality, better margin products made by most of the CEDIA channel.

 Something must be done. Manufacturers can’t fight energy legislation forever. We all know standards have to reflect the times. The question is will manufacturers rest on their laurels and only sell product where there are no legislation and pray that it will continue to be profitable, or will they step up to the plate and make the necessary changes to grow into the next century? Only time will tell.

To read more on the legislation, click here.

 Posted by: Lauren

CEA submits Suggestions And Expresses Concerns On Proposed Changes To ENERGY STAR Program

On Jan. 19, CEA submitted comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy regarding the agencies’ recent memorandum of understanding and Enhanced Program Plan for ENERGY STAR products. Both documents propose significant administrative and program changes to ENERGY STAR. CEA’s comments focused on the following concerns and issues: the proposed requirement for product testing by accredited labs; the imposition of a top-tier “Super Star” program; the proposal for overall limits on energy use; the agencies’ responsiveness to stakeholder comments; the use of advocates as consultants; product testing and product returns; and the use of industry test procedures.

According to the U.S. EPA and the U.S. DOE, the following program changes have been suggested:

ENERGY STAR Products Program

Program design: The ENERGY STAR products program will be enhanced in the following ways:

  1. Specifications will be set so that the ENERGY STAR logo is applied consistently with established program principles and with approximately only the top quartile of products eligible.
  2. Product coverage will be expanded to include new consumer products with high energy saving potential.
  3. Verification of compliance with program requirements will be increased and efforts will be enhanced to identify and address product performance issues.
  4. An ENERGY Super Star program will be nested within the ENERGY STAR program to enable consumers to identify the top performing products.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Management. The EPA will manage the ENERGY STAR products program and the new Super Star program, in consultation with DOE.
  • Testing for Program Purposes. EPA will maintain product testing results data with support from DOE as agreed to by the Agencies. DOE will lead the development of product testing procedures and metrics with EPA assisting where necessary.

National Building Rating Program

Program design: The National Building Rating program will be enhanced in the following ways:

  1. A comprehensive whole building scale-based rating tool will be developed and promoted that reflects both the physical characteristics of a building (asset rating) and a way to compare the actual energy use of existing buildings with similar buildings.
  2. A labeling scheme will be developed to easily convey the energy use information from the whole building scale-based rating tool.
  3. The whole building scale-based rating tool will take account of the inherent building envelope, major energy-using equipment and appliances, and past performance based on utility bills.
  4. The whole building scale-based rating tool will be updated periodically to reflect improvements in building technology and analytical tools, and to enhance usability.
  5. The eligibility of buildings for the ENERGY STAR logo as applied to buildings will be based on the rating systems of the National Building Rating Program.
  6. The criteria for the ENERGY STAR logo will be updated periodically to reflect improvements in building energy efficiency, diagnostic capability, and market appetite for energy efficiency, and will be based on established program principles for the ENERGY STAR brand.

Roles and Responsibilities:

  • Management. DOE will manage the National Building Rating program including the development of the whole building scale-based rating tool and associated labeling scheme, in consultation with EPA. EPA will continue its efforts to encourage key stakeholders to build new buildings to ENERGY STAR levels and improve existing buildings.
  • Testing for Program Purposes. DOE will maintain building performance data with support from EPA as agreed to by the Agencies. EPA will support various aspects of the program and assist DOE with input to help inform development of the framework, tools, and updates of the rating schemes
  • Specification Levels. The performance levels for the ENERGY STAR when applied to buildings will be set by EPA, with technical input provided by DOE and the National Building Rating Tool, consistent with established principles for the program.

Overall program coordination

  • DOE and EPA will periodically evaluate and as appropriate modify their program efforts to ensure that the ENERGY STAR and National Building Rating programs are mutually reinforcing and coordinated.

To view the entire Memorandum of Understanding on Improving the Energy Efficiency of Products and Buildings, click here.

Safety should be key in purchasing new appliances

A survey by Underwriters Laboratories found out that most homeowners look for energy efficiency when purchasing new home appliances.  More than half look for energy efficiency as one of the top two things they look for, ranking safety not so high.  My only defense as one of these homeowners purchasing a lot of new appliances is it wasn’t even a thought in my mind that they might not be safe!

 Looking for the UL mark on the packaging is helpful when purchasing new energy efficient appliances for your home.  That mark will give you the relief that the product has undergone rigorous safety testing, and is free of any safety hazards. 

Cost and Energy savings are the two top factors when purchasing a new appliance for homeowners but safety should really be a top priority, what good is the appliance if it causes damage to the home or person? 

The 300 million dollar rebate program that encourages homeowners to buy energy efficient appliances will be a great time for people buying energy efficient appliances to make sure they meet safety standards before purchasing them for their home. 

If you are not replacing your appliances you should double check your connections and all of your appliances as a whole to make sure they are running how they should. 

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has designed a website, www.ul.com/appliancesafety .com  to help consumers learn more about the Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program and to help them understand appliance safety as well.  This website will also allow consumer to learn when the rebate program starts in their state, also which appliances will qualify for rebates as well as how much each appliance will get towards the rebate.  The website will also help you determine if you need a new appliance or if the one you currently have is fine.  It also has some great tips on how to keep you’re a[appliance working like new. 

Posted by: Kate Kiselka, follow me on twitter

LEED for Homes Point by Point: Innovation & Design

Innovation & Design :: 9 points achieved out of 11 points available ::

We achieved 9 out of the 11 available points in this category. ID 1.3 Professional Credentialed with respect to LEED for Homes is apparently not available yet although we are using one (I believe this is in effect for applications made since mid-2009).  We also missed ID 1.5 which is building orientation for solar design because of the number of east facing windows (it faces Narragansett Bay and the Newport Bridge) – I make no excuses for our choice.

One of the most important aspects of ID is the quality management and durability planning. From the very beginning of our project, we created a Durability Checklist; we then used that as a working document to assign Scope of Works and as a checklist to make sure things were getting done as planned. Incorporated into our building contract, the checklist did evolve as the house was built taking into account any in field changes, additions or deletions.

The third portion is ID 3 which are Innovative Design – four points that are based on truly innovative or regional practices implemented on our project. We’ve been working on 3 of these points from the very beginning. The first point is Energy Management and involves the installation of a system that provides us as the homeowner’s automated control over various loads in the house. Having installed Control4 for home automation and Lutron for lighting control, our system is comprehensive, managing both individual loads and grouped system loads. The Control4 system controls the five-zone Geothermal HVAC system. We can access, control and manage any of the five zones from any of the access points in the house. Control4 includes pre programmed set scenes, timed programming, shutdown, individual temperature control and management of every zone.

The Control4 user interface has multiple options which includes ten touch screens located in each of the following rooms (front entry, kitchen (plus on wall tablet), guest room, children’s rooms (2), master bedroom, unfinished bonus room); remote controls in the living room, master and guest room, side table tablets in the master bedroom and on any PC in the house which includes the office. The interface displays information by the top eight monitored loads broken down to primary categories including: (1) lighting control system, (2) HVAC system, (3) entertainment system rack, (4) televisions, (5) kitchen refrigerator (6) pantry refrigerator (7) entertainment system rack, and (8) charging station. The energy management point takes into account al of the access and control from above and then measures how well the information is supplied to the homeowner. In our case, Control4 aggregates energy usage hour-by-hour, day-by-day, month-by-month. Information can be reported in graphs by time or by load. The system can also recognize and communicate areas of consumption that can be lowered to conserve energy and save money. These two points we won’t officially know the decision of the USGBC technical review committee for approximately another 90 days.

The third point we applied for was our “Wiring for a Green Home” plan, which saved us 52% of the materials used on a comparable project of size, scope and system requirements as determined by our electrical systems contractor. When we were told we’d have to wait 90 days to hear about the here open ID points, we said, well go ahead and submit anyway but what else can we do and we applied for 1.5 points for exemplary performance in MR 2.2 which was our use of environmentally preferred products.

The fourth ID point we applied for was for our high performance washing machine which required both an Energy Star rating and a water factor of 3.5 . Our Whirlpool Duet washing machine helped us achieve 1.5 points for reducing water usage by 74% and energy usage by 80% over washing machines manufactured before 2004. We also received one point for exemplary performance in Sustainable Sites (SS2.5) for attaining the full six points for our conservation and our irrigation system.

Posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter: newscaster

Selecting the best appliances for energy and water savings

Our appliances were delivered and as much care went into their selection as every other product in our Narragansett LEED house. In addition to considerations for style and performance, all of our appliances (with the exception of our stove because stoves are not rated) are top performing ENERGY STAR appliances.

As available appliances for the project will bear the ENERGY STAR label and assist us in maintaining the highest level of energy efficiency throughout the home. Additionally, the new Whirlpool Duet washer, which uses 74 percent less water and 80 percent less energy than traditional top load washers manufactured before 2004 and you can watch how it works in this video, will aid the project in its LEED-H for Gold certification quest by providing a point in the Innovation & Design category. And yes, we did pick the cranberry.

Our selections include:

Whirlpool Brand Resource Saver Dishwasher – Features the eco-friendly Resource Saver wash system and CEE Tier II recognition from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency ratings. We chose to have the custom cabinet panel installed to match.

Whirlpool Brand Duet Dryer–Uses up to 40% less energy with Eco Normal cycle when paired with a Duet washer.  A more precise set of heat and moisture detection sensors allows clothes to dry more efficiently. The Quick Refresh steam cycle tumbles 2 to 5 items, helping break down odors and relax wrinkles. Combined with the Duet washer, it is the brands most efficient laundry pair to date, providing $837 in energy and water savings over the first five years of use. Though dryer’s do not yet earn ENERGY STAR ratings, this dryer is top energy saver and when managed on the Control4 appliance module will only be allowed to run during non peak pricing hours to manage our cost per kwh budget.

KitchenAid Architect Series II Double Drawer Dishwasher – This ENERGY STAR dishwasher is able to wash 2 different loads independently or simultaneously and features 5 cycles for flexible washing options. We installed it right across from our kitchen wine bar which will be great when entertaining and keeping the glasses plentiful.

KitchenAid Architect Series II Refrigerator – The 48” main refrigerator provides the elegant aesthetics and functionality that my gourmet cook’s kitchen deserves.  This ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator will be monitored on the Control4 appliance module for real time monitoring of energy consumption and load shedding from 1 – 4 AM daily for a projected annual energy savings of 12 percent of running costs. A second ENERGY STAR labeled Whirlpool French Door refrigerator, located in the home’s pantry, will also be monitored on the Control4 system.

As I watch our appliances get installed and I think about the months of planning and meetings we had, the product reviews I read, the color swatches I compared and the immense time I spent designing the kitchen and laundry room, I cannot tell you how muchI look froward to doing a load of wash adn running the dishwasher. Seriously.

posted by KDL | follow me on Twitter : newscaster