Want $500? Make Energy Improvements Before Dec. 31

Photo: Flickr/401(K) 2013

Photo: Flickr/401(K) 2013

A $500 tax credit for energy-efficiency upgrades is set to expire on Dec. 31, so now is a good time to start thinking about a few simple remodeling tasks around the house.

Eligible efficiency upgrades include roofs and building insulation (such as replacing drafty windows and doors or insulating your attic, basement or garage), as well as improvements to your water heater, furnace, boiler, heat pump and HVAC system. You can also receive a tax credit for switching to a biomass heater or stove.

Note that claims can only be made for your primary residence. And to be eligible, homeowners must not have made a claim in the previous six years during which the program was active, according to Consumer Reports. Other requirements can be found on the websites for Energy Star and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

Here are a few need-to-know numbers for receiving a tax credit for your home energy upgrades.

Windows, doors and skylights

Homeowners can receive a tax credit for 10 percent of the cost of new windows, doors and skylights, up to $500, but windows are capped at $200.

New windows and doors must be Energy Star qualified to be eligible, and the tax credit does not include installation costs.

If you’re looking to modify on the cheap, setting your sights on windows, doors and skylights is an easy way to do it.

You don’t have to replace all the windows, doors and skylights in your home to qualify, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a replacement, either — installing a new window where there wasn’t one previously (like in an addition) also qualifies.

Heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC)

The tax credit you’ll receive for HVAC upgrades varies depending on the work you do.

For example, you’ll receive a $300 tax credit for installing an eligible central air-conditioning system or air source heat pump, while a natural gas, propane or oil furnace will yield a $150 credit.

For a full list of HVAC tax credits — and tips on how to apply — visit Energy Star online.

Insulation and roofs

Homeowners can receive a tax credit for 10 percent of the cost of installing new insulation and roofing, up to $500.

For insulation, typical bulk insulation products can qualify, such as batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, rigid boards, expanding spray and pour-in-place.

Products that air seal or reduce air leaks can also qualify, as long as they come with a Manufacturers Certification Statement. This includes weather stripping, air-sealing foam spray, caulk and house wrap.

Eligible roofing products are limited to materials that reflect more of the sun’s rays, such as metal roofs with appropriate pigment coatings, and asphalt roofs with approved cooling granules.

These materials can lower surface temperature by as much as 100 degrees Fahrenheit, decreasing the amount of heat transferred to your home. Note that all products must be Energy Star certified to be eligible.

Tax credits for insulation and roofing do not include installation costs, but you can probably install the bulk of your insulation and home sealing upgrades yourself and get the credit.

For more information on tax credits for home energy efficiency, along with the dollar amount you can expect to receive for each upgrade, visit Energy Star online.

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Mary Mazzoni

Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.
Mary Mazzoni