Monday, November 9, 2009

Homeowners can take credit for energy efficiency

home owners insurance

With economic stimulus money adding to alternative energy incentives in New Jersey, making a home greener and paying less for energy is easier on the finances than ever.

The federal and state governments are willing to subsidize everything from installing solar panels on your roof to adding insulation to replacing your old clunker of a clothes washer with a model that uses less water.

"Right now, I'm as busy as it gets," said Deniz Bilge, owner of Green Sun construction, that specializes in solar paneling and other energy-pinching measures.

Most of his customers are tired of paying high utility bills and want to make small changes to make their homes more energy-efficient, Bilge said. A few are going all-out and putting solar panels on their roofs.

"The tax credit helps," he added.

Through the end of 2010, the federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit - up to your tax obligation for the year - to homeowners who install solar panels. In addition, the state of New Jersey is offering $1.55 per watt - or $1.75 per watt with an energy audit - for residents who put in solar energy systems up to 10 kilowatts.

"The incentives are great. Basically, a system will pay for itself ... in less than four years to five years," and pay for itself again in the five years after that, said Gene Cathrall, who owns Spectrum Solar in Cape May County. "If you have money sitting in the bank, basically losing money, it's a great place to put it."

A 10-kilowatt solar-energy system costs about $70,000 to install, and smaller residential jobs go from about $24,000 to $60,000. But when you factor in the government rebates, a household that pays $3,000 a year in electric bills can quickly recoup the initial cost, Cathrall said.

Solar paneling is a good investment for summer residents, who can collect energy credits all winter when they're not living in the home, and use them in the summer when there is more demand for electricity, Cathrall said.

Bilge said he is going to Pennsylvania this month to install solar panels on three homes.

The only problem is, as the prices on the panels come down, more people and businesses want them, Bilge said. Especially with the tax incentives, more people ordered the systems and now there is a wait to receive them.

Green house

Bilge is constructing his own house in Somers Point, planning to move his family in by Memorial Day.

There will be no solar panels on this roof - it will covered with grass to prevent heat from building up in the attic - because the lot has many trees and Bilge said he doesn't see the sense in cutting them down to allow the sun to energize the house.

But the insulated walls are 6 inches thick, and the supplier guaranteed in writing that they will save him 30 percent on energy costs, Bilge said. Large windows will let in sunlight to help with lighting and heating.

The house will be heated by 85-degree water or glycol passing through hoses snaked beneath the basement and under the floor of the main living area, Bilge said. That will be powered by a gas-fired boiler.

"It can be zero degrees outside, and I could shut it off and it will keep the house warm," Bilge said.

The frame is made of mostly recycled steel, including an I-bar from the sign at the old Trump Castle casino, which happened to be the exact size he needed for a beam, Bilge said.

There will be no wood in the construction, which not only helps save the forests, but will save him money in home-insurance premiums, Bilge said.

Bilge said he hasn't yet figured out how much the government will reimburse him for his green home. But he knows he can get up to $500 in rebates for furnishing the house with Energy Star appliances.

As for the rest, Bilge said he plans to sit down with his accountant later this month to determine exactly which rebates and incentives he qualifies for. His plan for the time being is to build an energy-efficient house that his family can enjoy for the long run.

"My goal is not to use the energy in the first place," he said.

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