Energy Adviser: Plenty of incentives out there to make homes more efficient

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Here’s the bad news: If you didn’t undertake energy-efficiency projects in 2011 and claim them on tax forms due last month, you missed some big breaks on these improvements from the federal government.

Now here’s some good news: There still are other incentives for energy-efficiency projects, including numerous rebates available from Clark Public Utilities.

The federal tax credits available through 2016 are for measures that may be a little out of reach for most of us. Homeowners installing geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines or solar arrays — projects that easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars — can get 30 percent of the cost back.

If those projects happen to be on your to-do list, you may also be eligible for rebates from the utility. Installation of a geothermal heat pump in an electrically heated home may qualify for a $2,000 rebate, and solar water heater rebates are $500.

“The federal tax credits are really for homeowners interested in being early adopters of new green and renewable technologies and helping to spur market transformation,” said DuWayne Dunham, Clark Public Utilities energy counselor. “The utility offers separate incentives for more affordable projects that will result in immediate energy savings right here in Clark County.”

If your plans include a new heat pump, refrigerator or clothes washer, rebates are available for such purchases through Clark Public Utilities. More information is available at Clark Public Utilities, but here’s a glance:

• Get $25 back on Energy Star refrigerators and freezers purchased from participating Clark County retailers. Then let Clark Public Utilities recycle your old fridge or freezer and get a $30 credit on your bill.

• Buy an Energy Star clothes washer and get $50 back from participating Clark County retailers.

• Owners of electrically heated homes who have an energy-efficient heat pump installed by an approved contractor can get $500 back.

• Owners of houses with cable ceiling heat, baseboards or wall heaters are eligible for $1,500 back on ductless heat pumps.

Incentives are available for weatherization, as well:

• For new windows, you can get as much as $500 back.

• For floor, attic and wall insulation, you can get 50 percent of the total cost, up to $400 for each.

• For heat duct sealing, you can get as much as $500 back.

• Air sealing the house can earn you as much as $100 back.

Clark Public Utilities also offers financing for certain projects, including installing heat pumps, weatherizing and adding solar panels. There’s a $225 loan-processing fee for loans less than $5,000, and a $350 fee for loans greater than that. Interest is 5.25 percent, with 60 to 84 months to pay it off, depending on how much you borrow.

“One of the better parts about our loan offering is that there’s no prepayment penalty. Homeowners can use the financing and pay it off as quickly as they like,” Dunham said. “There’s a lot of trust involved with our utility and our customers. They feel comfortable that we’re the ones handling the financing.”

The utility’s loan also comes with assurances that the job will be done correctly. Homeowners must choose a utility-approved contractor, and then the utility inspects the work when it’s done.

If you have natural gas heating, you also are eligible for energy-efficiency rebates and incentives. The Energy Trust of Oregon will be your go-to resource. Here are some of the rebates NW Natural customers may receive:

• Air- and duct-leakage testing is eligible for $35 back.

• Homeowners who seal air leaks in the frame, windows or doors may receive as much as 50 percent of the cost, up to $275.

• Sealing ductwork garners 50 percent of the cost of the project, up to $325.

• Installing insulation snags rebates from 25 cents to 30 cents per square foot.

• New energy-efficient gas furnaces are eligible for $100 back.

• A gas tankless water heater is eligible or $200 back, while an efficient gas tank water heater is eligible for $35 back.

So even with fewer federal tax credits, you may find that energy-efficiency projects pencil out for you this year, once you take these rebates into account.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us call 360-992-3355, email ecod@clarkpud.com or visit www.clarkpublicutilities.com.