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3 posts from December 2010

December 17, 2010

Are you patient? - Energy Efficiency incentives in Illinois

Laura As a state, Illinois has not offered a lot of incentives for energy efficient home improvements.  The utilities have not been very proactive either.  The current federal energy efficiency tax credits are set to expire on December 31st.  The federal ENERGY STAR appliance rebates are long-gone.  Are there any options for suburban Chicago home owners?  Yes - but you either have to be lucky or patient! 

If you like to be lucky, keep an eye out for a new program from Nicor. Their Existing Home Retrofit Program offers a free mini-energy audit and on-the-spot CFL light-blub upgrades.  If the home owner chooses to do additional recommendations, they split the cost for those improvements 50/50 with Nicor.  Nicor is going neighborhood by neighborhood and targeting homes built before 1960 with above-average heating usage.  You cannot enroll in this program - if you qualify, Nicor will reach you.  So if you get a letter and a postcard about the program from Nicor you can consider yourself lucky (that you qualify for the incentives) or unlucky (that you live in a home that uses so much energy!).  Either way, if you get the letter, be sure to confirm your participation as soon as you can! 

If you like to be patient, keep an eye out for one of two great programs:

  • Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR is a state program that provides guidelines and performance targets for making existing homes more efficient.  Homes that complete the program can leverage the ENERGY STAR brand as a third-party verfication that their home is more efficient.  This program will be rolling out in Illinois soon.  
  • Chicago Region Retrofit Ramp-Up is a federally-funded program that will make it easier for home owners to plan good energy efficient improvements. The grant will support a call-center to help home owners get started, plan work, find contractors and even qualify for low-interest loans to pay for the work.  The program is being implemented by CNT Energy with rollout plans coming soon! 

Watch for details to participate in either of these big programs as they are available!


December 15, 2010

Items of Interest for 2011

Amy So the Illinois Association of REALTORS published a long list of laws that take effect January 1, 2011 that are important for REALTORS (excerpts below are taken from illinoisrealtor.org/newlaws2011). A few of the items caught my eye that I thought would be beneficial to our consumer blog subscribers. I know it's not the most exciting information to read but it's informative, especially when it applies to you!


Solar Energy System Ban Restricted

Certain homeowners, property owners or condominium unit owners associations will be prohibited from adopting bylaws, deed restrictions or covenants that would ban the installation and use of a solar energy system. These associations must adopt an energy policy statement regarding the location, design and architectural requirements of solar energy systems within 120 days after it receives a request for a policy statement or an application from an association member. It approval is required for installation or use of a solar energy system, the application must be processed within 90 days after the submission of the application. If an application is submitted before the association has adopted an energy policy statement, the 90-day period does not begin to run until the date that the policy is adopted. The association is given the right to determine the specific location where a solar energy system can be installed on the roof provided it does not impair the effective operation of the system and the solar energy system would be required to meet applicable standards and requirements imposed by state and local permitting authorities. Important Note: The new law does not apply to any building greater than 30 feet in height.


Lead Safety in Renovating/Remodeling

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began its mandatory lead-safe certification process on April 22, 2010. While contractors and remodelers have the primary responsibility to comply with the new federal mandates, property managers may also face new compliance requirements. A new U.S. EPA pamphlet, "The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right" must be given to homeowners or tenants before work begins. Property managers doing any renovation, repair and painting work must be trained and certified in the new lead-paint safe work practices. Outside contractors also must be trained and certified. Mandatory training and certification on lead-based paint practices will be required for renovation, repair and painting activities in single and multi-family housing built before 1978, child care facilities and schools.

There are strict rules on equipment that can be used as well as new record keeping requirements and stiff fines are in place. If a property owner is conducting their own renovation, repair or painting activities they are exempt.


I have more to report but it's too much...too much for one blog post.

December 01, 2010

Tick, Tick, Tick...ENERGY STAR tax credits expire soon!

ENE_ask_v_b_p The best opportunity for Illinois residents to save money on energy efficiency improvements will soon be a thing of the past.  The current federal ENERGY STAR tax credits are expiring on December 31st.  And there is nothing in the works to follow them.  Since Illinois as a state does not offer energy incentives, the time to act is now! 

The tax credit is available for specific green home improvements installed by New Year's Eve.  Not all ENERGY STAR products qualify, so check the requirements before you shop!   Credits for other bigger initiatives like adding geothermal heating and cooling with continue for another few years.  But don't worry about that - those projects cost a lot more if you don't add the insulation first! 

If you'd like to earn the tax credit, you have two options for a last-minute project, but you have to act now! 

Water heaters typically have an 8-10 year lifespan and aren't intricately connected with other systems in your home the way a new heater would be.  They are a smarter improvement if you want to meet the deadline and don't have the time to more scientifically determine your energy improvement needs. 

If you live in an older home, especially one built before 1970, insulation is almost always a good idea.  Best practices today would encourage you to get an energy audit first, and then do air sealing before insulating your home.  (Air sealing seals up gaps that cause drafts in your home under the insulation.)  But to meet the deadline for a mini-insulation project, you could hire an insulation contractor with an industry certification like BPI.  Cool Cities Coalition in Elmhurst provides a handy resource for planning green home improvements.  Their Project Green website provides more information on green improvement best practices.  Their directory includes BPI air sealing and insulation contractors that serve the DuPage area. 

If you plan a last-minute project, be sure to get the Manufacturer's Certified Statement before you buy!  It's the documentation you'll need to submit to the IRS for your tax credit.  (See ENERGY STAR FAQs, "Tax Credits/Rebates", then look for Manufacturer's Certified Statement)


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