Spring Real Estate 2007

Publication Date: Friday, April 27, 2007

Spend to save
Rebates, tax credits offered on energy-saving appliances

by Justin Bull

Homeowners can recover the cost of new energy-efficient appliances in one to two years, according to Linda Clerkson, the utility communications manager at City of Palo Alto Utilities.

Long-term financial rewards and savings that help conserve energy and reduce environmental impact can be attained when homeowners buy certified appliances and equipment.

Additionally, the federal government and local utilities are offering tax credits and rebates to encourage people to make such upgrades.

The Energy Policy Act was signed by President Bush in August 2005 and took effect in January 2006. Among many other provisions, the act offers consumers a tax credit of up to $500 for the installation of energy-saving products such as windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment.

The tax credit applies to items purchased between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007, provided the consumer saved the receipts. Taxpayers are able to itemize their purchases on their federal income-tax form.

In addition to tax credits, those who buy energy-efficient products can receive rebates from utility providers.

Both City of Palo Alto Utilities and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) give rebates on many of the same home-improvement projects and appliances listed for tax credits. The products must meet efficiency requirements listed online.

"Sometimes people will get misinformed about which ones qualify," Clerkson said. "We definitely encourage people to contact us first before making a major purchase. There's nothing worse than buying something you thought qualified for a rebate and then coming home and finding out it doesn't."

Some products, such as washing machines and dishwashers, will pay for themselves in a short amount of time.

"Generally speaking items can have a payback of one to two years, sometimes longer," Clerkson said. She added that larger projects such as solar-powered roof systems will take longer to receive payback.

The City of Palo Alto, for example, offers a $50 rebate for purchase of an Energy-Star qualified dishwasher, as part of the Palo Alto Smart Energy Program. PG&E offers either $30 or $50, depending on the energy factor of the high-efficiency dishwasher.

Palo Alto Utilities funds its rebate program by taking a percentage of each customer's bill and compiling it into a fund called a "public benefit charge." Rebates are then reallocated from the fund to those who buy products that conserve energy.

Rebate dollars from several other utility companies are provided by the California Public Utilities Commission. Because this state-funded money is in limited supply, PG&E offers rebates on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted.

The application for rebates from Palo Alto Utilities or PG&E must be turned in within 90 days of the purchase date. Each utility requires receipts.

For more information on rebates or tax credits, visit www.fypower.org or www.energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm.

Rebates offered by Palo Alto Utilities

Applications to the City of Palo Alto Utilities for rebates must be made no later than 90 days after date of purchase. Rebates apply to purchases made between April 15, 2006, and June 30, 2008.

Dishwasher $50/unit

Refrigerator $100/unit

Wall insulation $200 (must cover 75% of attic)

Central air conditioning $200-300/unit

Boiler $300/unit

Furnace $300/unit

Gas water heater $40/unit

Tankless water heater $300/unit