HVAC units, high efficiency clothes dryers, electric vehicles: There are lots of options to go green — and save some green — as many Earth-friendly options now have tax credits to go along with them.
From the state and local level to federal, navigating the available benefits can be daunting. That's why the federal government is announcing a new program to try and help consumers weed through the nearly $9 billion in federal funds available for families.
"This new hub is a one stop shop. It lists the number of available tax credits and rebates," Office of State and Community Energy Programs Chief of Staff Chris Castro told Scripps News. "It also has, 'Do It Yourself' tips, educational videos and fact sheets about all types of clean energy technologies that consumers can now benefit from."
The website, referred to as the Savings Hub, is broken down by 'personas' — a homeowner, renter or driver. Then, it's sorted by the type of upgrade or product needed. From there, it explains whether there is a tax credit — which works by reducing your owed income tax — or a rebate, that comes from your utility or government program in the form of dollars back to you after purchase.
"When you have the inflation Reduction Act that's passing billions of dollars of rebates and billions of dollars of tax credits, to create a 'one-stop-shop' resource was, in our opinion, kind of the best move and course of action," Castro said.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which passed along party lines last year, included billions for energy efficiency in homes. Recent polls found most Americans are unaware of the bill and the benefits for their own homes and cars. But the Department of Energy says it's been working on making the site an easy-to-navigate hub since the bill was passed last fall.
According to the White House, families could qualify for up to $14,000 in direct rebates for home energy efficient upgrades, as well as up to a 30% tax credit for solar panel installations.
While the tax credits are for anyone, including businesses, access to the rebates program depends on income. The rebates are only available for lower-income and middle-income families; however, who qualifies as lower and middle-income actually differs greatly by location. The determination is based on making 150% or less than the median income for your location, as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban development.
As of now, the rebates are also awaiting final approval, which are expected to come in July. Once that money is available, however, it will go to the states, which can have staggered rollouts depending on state resources.
"These are programs that will help families make their homes more energy efficient and save money on their home energy bills," National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) Executive Director Mark Wolfe told Scripps News. "This year was the most expensive year in 10 years for a family to heat their home. And at one point during the winter, it was so bad, it was running at the highest level in 15 years."
The government has also rolled out a series of grants, targeted towards state, local and tribal governments, which could be layered with the tax benefits and rebates.
A recent report from NEADA found the cost of winter heating has risen faster than the overall rate of inflation and is now at the highest level in more than 10 years.
And that high cost, coupled with inflation led to nearly one in six households being behind on their electric bills, as of January — a figure that is nearly double the previous year.
As summer approaches, estimates put the cost of staying cool as high as last summer.
Home cooling is expected to become the No. 1 use of energy in buildings globally by 2050, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). But energy efficient units can cut future demand by 45%, the report found.
However, these programs, Wolfe says, are about more than saving money.
"It's about also making your home safer to live in," he said. "For example, if you have a leaky hot water heater, that can create mold in the basement, which can lead to asthma triggers."
"This is a huge opportunity for the American consumer to really think about ways to improve our indoor health, to save energy and to do our part in driving action to the climate crisis," Castro said.
The government hopes to soon expand the site based on consumer feedback, to include an income verification tool, as well as expand to a second hub that can service businesses and communities.
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