Feature Articles - Housing
Weatherizing your home has year-round benefits
It’s the season when many Missouri homeowners are getting hit with cold drafts and higher heating bills. Even if you didn’t get around to weatherstripping doors, adding attic insulation or upgrading your aging water heater in 2009, University of Missouri Extension specialists note that it’s not too late to take advantage of federal tax incentives for household energy-efficiency improvements (see video clip at bottom of story).
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides tax credits for household improvements such as additional insulation, new windows and upgraded heating or cooling systems that go into service in 2009 or 2010, said Andrew Zumwalt, MU Extension associate state specialist for financial planning.
“Unlike tax deductions, tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax liability - meaning that you can subtract the full amount of the credit from your tax bill,” Zumwalt said.
To qualify, improvements must meet certain specifications through the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyStar rating system, said Barbara Buffaloe, MU Extension housing and environmental design specialist. (See www.EnergyStar.gov for details.)
Taxpayers can claim 30 percent of the cost of the improvements up to $1,500. That cap covers both 2009 and 2010, so if you claim the full $1,500 on your 2009 taxes, you won’t be able to claim additional credits in 2010, Zumwalt said. On the other hand, the benefits of lower energy bills and a more comfortable home continue year after year.
The $1,500 limit doesn’t apply to certain big-ticket items, including geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, and wind, photovoltaic or fuel cell power systems, but Buffaloe advises homeowners to focus on curbing loss through insulation and weatherization before investing in a costly household alternative-energy system.
“The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use,” Buffaloe said. Even little things like replacing worn weatherstripping and caulking joints can make a noticeable dent in your monthly energy bills.
In addition to tax credits, Missouri homeowners may be able to take advantage of other energy-efficiency incentives.
A number of Missouri utility providers offer programs such as rebates, low-interest loans and free home energy audits.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ “Energize Missouri” program has received federal stimulus funding for a number of energy conservation and efficiency efforts, including weatherization assistance for low-income families and rebates on the purchase of certain household appliances. For more information, see http://dnr.mo.gov/energy/.
Barbara Buffaloe, LEED A.P., M.S., housing and environmental design specialist, Architectural Studies, University of Missouri Extension, 573-882-6289 and Andrew Zumwalt, M.S., associate state specialist, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension, 573-884-1690
For more information from MU Extension on energy conservation, see http://missourifamilies.org/housing/energy/. For more information on personal and family finances, see http://missourifamilies.org/money/.
Last update: Monday, January 11, 2010