PREP Talks: Bob Haring-Smith – Go green with fewer greenbacks

Bob Haring-Smith

Bob Haring-Smith COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 02-23-2024 3:30 PM

There’s nothing like cold weather to make us acutely aware of energy costs.

Weatherizing our homes and replacing old appliances, boilers or furnaces with Energy Star devices or modern, cold-climate heat pumps are proven ways to save energy and money, but up-front costs are an obstacle even though they are paid back eventually through lower monthly costs. Fortunately, there is a wide array of state and federal financial assistance to get us past that obstacle.

I’ll hit some of the highlights of government energy programs below but let me first point you to two websites that bear frequent visits as you plan work on your home. NHSaves (nhsaves.com) is the umbrella for the state’s energy assistance programs. Its biggest and most-important benefit is up to $6,000 in rebates on improvements like insulation and air sealing to preserve your home’s heat in the winter and keep it from losing its cool in the summer.

For information on federal incentives, the best resource I’ve found is Rewiring America’s IRA calculator (rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator). It presents the full range of incentives available to you, based on your household size and income. There is a planning tool on the same website that will help you maximize your use of federal assistance.

Some incentives come in the form of income tax credits. If you are completing your 2023 income tax return now, you may be able to claim tax credits for steps you took last year to make your home more energy efficient. Use IRS form 5695.

Next month, the Peterborough Renewable Energy Project (PREP) will offer a workshop expanding on the information presented here. You can attend in person at the Peterborough Town Library at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, or register to participate via Zoom by visiting bit.ly/savingmoneyworkshopmar16. Or visit prepnh.org for more information.

Now, show me the money. Your first step should be to get an energy audit and consider weatherization measures. Visit nhsaves.com/residential/weatherization and use the “Test Your Home” button to get a quick reading on the current state of your home. If it is already operating efficiently, you can still get free Wi-Fi thermostats, LED lights and other devices. If your home leaks energy badly, then you can arrange for a full energy audit and get a report of the measures that will most benefit your home. Your cost for the work can be reduced by rebates from NHSaves and income tax credits from the federal government.

From the comfort of your newly weatherized, much-less-drafty home, you can consider other steps to take. I spoke recently with a local homeowner who undertook weatherization. When it was finished, he found that he could replace his fossil-fuel furnace with a highly efficient cold-climate heat pump, needing only two-thirds of the heat-generating capacity of the furnace – another way in which weatherizing saved him money. Furthermore, the NHSaves rebate program for heat pumps immediately knocked $2,500 off the cost of his heat pump system, and he’ll save another $2,000 through the federal tax credit for heat pumps.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Peterborough Planning Board approves 14-unit development near High Street
Franklin Pierce University names valedictorian and salutatorian
Peterborough firefighters continue fishing derby tradition
Scott Bakula starring in Peterborough Players’ ‘Man of La Mancha’
Antrim Fire Department selling used truck
Jaffrey kicks off Earth Week with no-waste potluck and environmental speakers

Low- and moderate-income residents will be able to save up to $8,000 on heat pump installations once the state has set up its rebate program, which is anticipated to be in the fall.

NHSaves provides rebates for a variety of home appliances as well: heat pump water heaters, washers, dryers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, air purifiers and advanced power strips. Not every such appliance qualifies for a rebate, so be sure to visit nhsaves.com for complete information before making your purchases.

Federal energy efficiency and renewable energy assistance generally comes in two forms – tax credits and rebates. Tax credits are available now for work done since the beginning of 2023 and can be claimed when you file your income tax return for the year. All income levels are eligible for tax credits, but you must have enough tax liability to get the full benefit. Most credits are 30% of the cost of the project, though some are capped at a particular dollar amount.

For example, the credits for solar panels, geothermal heating and battery storage are an unlimited 30% (and credit unused because it is greater than your tax liability can be carried over to the next year), but the credit for air-source heat pumps or heat pump water heaters is capped at $2,000. See Rewiring America for details. The other form of federal assistance, rebates, will become available later this year.

Eligibility and the amount you can receive is limited based on your income, but most households qualify since the limit is 150% of the median household income in our area. In addition to heat pumps, rebates for heat pump water heaters, electrical upgrades to facilitate energy-related projects, induction rangesand heat pump clothes dryers can

be claimed. The method for doing so is yet to be determined.

One final point: Caps on energy rebates and tax credits limit the amount you can

receive in a given calendar year. But the arrival of a new calendar year gives you

another bite of the energy incentive apple. If you have a larger project in mind, staging it

over more than one year may help you maximize your use of federal incentives. You’ll

need to decide, though, if getting the additional incentive is worth postponing any

reduction in monthly energy costs that would result from the work.

Make the most of the opportunities available to save money while creating a healthier,

more comfortable environment in your home.

Bob Haring-Smith is Peterborough Renewable Energy Project co-coordinator.