With the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act comes a huge win for energy efficiency action in the US and for homeowners hoping to make their homes healthier and more comfortable.
New and extended tax credits will make energy efficiency measures more attainable for more Americans, which is very good news.
Here are a few highlights that have come from the passing of the bill.
Disclaimer: Since I'm not a tax expert, I'm simply passing along the info. that I've found for educational purposes only and am not providing any tax advice. Please consult with a tax professional for tax advice.
Why Energy Efficiency is about more than the Planet
Making buildings more energy efficient is a huge benefit for the planet. Being energy efficient means we're using less resources that negatively impact the health of the planet. Most significantly, we're doing this by creating less carbon. And carbon is a major culprit in climate change.
But creating more energy efficient buildings also significantly impacts your health and comfort. Here's how it improves a home:
A drafty house is uncomfortable because air is seeping through cracks in the walls, making you either chilly or hot. An air-tight, energy efficient house stops air from seeping through cracks, making it much more comfortable.
Stays at a pretty constant temperature:
With increased insulation, an energy efficient house maintains a pretty constant temperature, which again, makes the house much more comfortable to be in.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but an air-tight house has healthier air than a leaky house (as long as a balanced mechanical ventilation system is installed- which is a must in a home). A leaky, drafty house sucks in unhealthy air through cracks in the basement, walls, and attic. That means air is passing through some rather unpleasant things along the way, and is potentially bringing chemical toxins, mold, particulates, and bacteria into your home. An air-tight house controls where the air comes in, and only brings in filtered, temperature controlled air.
The most energy efficient home will be the one that is fully electric, meaning no fossil fuels are used to run the home. Since electricity can be made through renewable sources, this is the way all homes will eventually need to go. A home without gas is a home with healthier air quality and less risk of fire and carbon monoxide deaths.
A well-insulated, air-tight house blocks out more outdoor noise than a typical house. And noise takes a big toll on your mental wellness. Nothing good comes from listening to traffic, construction, or noisy neighbors all day long. So having an energy efficient house means you'll be more comfortable and less frustrated in your home.
What are the energy efficient incentives?
These are some of the federal incentives available with the IRA. Your state probably has some energy efficient incentives in place as well, so make sure to check those out.
There is now an (up to) $1,200 tax credit for energy efficient home improvements for things like insulation, air sealing, windows, and HVAC equipment that you can get every single year. Previously there was a $500 life-time credit, so this a big increase in incentive!
This is part of the Home Improvement tax credit, but instead of being capped at $1,200, you can get up to a $2,000 tax credit when you install a heat pump in your home.
Rooftop Solar and battery storage:
You can now get a 30% tax credit for the cost of buying a rooftop solar system for your house. (This credit doesn't apply if you lease the solar panels - something to be aware of.) This credit is available for the next 10 years.
There is now also a credit for battery storage, which is awesome if you've been weighing the options of having a back-up gas generator or a battery storage system. This should help encourage more battery back-up systems and less gas generators.
Electric Home Incentives:
This one isn't available yet, but the IRA has something in place to support purchasing electrical equipment and appliances to encourage households to go fully electric. Low-income households will get the best incentives, which is a huge step in the right direction for making sure all people can live in healthy, energy efficient, and low cost-to-run homes. This article explains the electric home incentives in more detail.
Other cool things about the act
Finding low-carbon products will get easier:
There will now be a label for low embodied carbon materials, making it much easier to select materials that are better for the planet. Low embodied carbon means that not a lot of carbon went into the making of the product. The label will probably take a few years to roll out, but keep an eye out for it when searching for materials in the next few years.
Contractor tax credit:
While this doesn't impact the homeowner financially, it does benefit you by encouraging contractors to build more efficient homes. The more contractors available to build energy-efficient homes, the easier it will be to find a contractor that can do the work (and do it well).
More possibilities have opened up for non profits and governments to help disadvantaged communities in improving the health of their homes mostly by monitoring and improving the indoor air quality.
This Vox article highlights four other very beneficial parts of the IRA. Including removing highways that have divided cities and polluted districts based on race since the 1950's, retiring coal power plants, and encouraging farmers to use the soil to fight climate change.
Articles to learn more:
The environment and our health needed a win lately, and this bill has definitely helped move things in the right direction for both. Hopefully this helps encourage you and other homeowners to make some energy efficiency and healthy home improvements!