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!