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To save a lot on energy, spend a bit first

If you're among the lucky few who still have a little cash, now may be a good time to invest in making your house more energy efficient. The federal government has sweetened the pot with expanded tax credits that will help offset the cost. Here's what you need to know about how incentives can help you:

Energy-efficient windows and doors, HVAC systems, insulation, roofing and hot water heaters

How it works: Helps reduce household energy use

What it saves: Depends. But the government's Energy Star office notes that adding insulation to your attic is one of the most cost-effective steps you can take.

Tax break: The federal credit will cover 30 percent of the cost up to a combined cap of $1,500. Ask your installer or check Energy Star's Web site before installing.

Geothermal heat pump

How it works: Uses the ground's constant 72-degree temperature to heat and cool the house.

What it costs: Two to three times more than a conventional system.

What it saves: Can cut your power bill by 50 percent.

Tax breaks and rebates: The tax credit will reimburse 30 percent of the cost of new systems. Ask your installer or check with Energy Star's Web site.

Solar electricity

How it works: Photovoltaic panels convert the sun's energy into electricity.

What it costs: From $30,000 to $45,000 for a five-kilowatt residential system.

What it saves: Allows the electric meter to run backward when the panels are producing power, reducing bills. Savings depend on the system.

Tax breaks and rebates: Florida offers a rebate of $4 per watt, capped at $20,000 for residential units. A tax credit covers 30 percent of the cost.

WARNING: The state's solar fund has run out of money. New applicants will be added to a waiting list.

Solar water heater

How it works: Uses the sun's energy to heat water.

What it costs: From $1,500 to $3,000 or more.

What it saves: Water heating accounts for 14 to 25 percent of a home's energy use. A solar heater can cut the energy used by 50 to 80 percent.

Tax break: Florida offers a $500 rebate for residential systems. Local utilities offer additional rebates. Contact your utility before installation and check to make sure the system qualifies for the federal tax credits. The credits reimburse 30 percent of the after-rebate cost of residential systems.

WARNING: The state's solar fund has run out of money. New applicants will be added to a waiting list.

Sources: Department of Energy's Energy Star program, Florida Governor's Office of Energy & Climate Change

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or (813) 225-3117.

On the Web

For more information, see Energy Star's Web page at www.energystar.gov and click on "Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency."

Tips

Before installing new equipment, check with your utility and your installer and be sure the system is eligible for rebates and tax credits.

Governor's Office of Energy & Climate Change: (850) 487-3800.

Progress Energy customer service: (727) 443-2641

Tampa Electric customer service: (813) 228-1111

Ask if your installer has experience with this type of system, and ask for references from other customers. You can check with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to check licensing and complaints. You can also contact the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association and the Florida Solar Energy Center to find installers.

Florida Solar Energy Industries Association: (407) 339-2010

Florida Solar Energy Center: (321) 638-1000

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation: (850) 487-1395, or go to www.myfloridalicense.com and click on "Verify a license."

To save a lot on energy, spend a bit first 04/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 10:29am]
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