Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Financial Help for Energy Efficiency

Lots of people take advantage of tax breaks that you can get for making your home or business more energy efficient.  But sometimes you need help getting money on the front end.  A new furnace or insulation can be hard to finance.  For many low-income people, there are free programs to make your home more energy efficient (HWAP, available through many community action agencies in the U.S.).  But for the rest of us, it means a loan--and a great, big debt.

But now there are programs to make that debt a lot smaller.  Some states are offering low-cost loans to finance a new energy efficient furnace.  One of these is Michigan.  The Michigan Public Service Commission started a program called Michigan Saves that makes loans available at a fixed annual percentage rate of no higher than 7%.  The length of the loans can run from 12 to 120 months. 

But how do you find these deals in other states?  DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) has a state-by-state list of financial incentives for energy efficiency.  Check your state and see which ones are available to you.  These include tax incentives for companies and individuals, rebates, grants, loans, and others.  The squares, which can be clicked to take you to the individual program, are colored to let you know where the incentive came from--the feds, state, local government, or utility company. 

The list has its problems, however.  For one thing, the Michigan incentive in the previous paragraph is not listed at all, which makes you wonder how often it's updated.  Sometimes, you click a box and it's empty.  The best thing to do is check with the utility company in your area, and ask them what programs they may be running, then try to identify the state department that deals with energy efficiency by clicking your state on this map.  Check the websites of the agencies listed, and contact that agency to get your up-to-date information straight from them.

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