Guide to Home Improvement Rebates
Do you want to make some important updates before you put your home on the market? You may be able to do it for less than you realize. For any update that improves energy or water efficiency, there’s probably a rebate available. Utility companies, state agencies, and the federal government offer a vast patchwork of rebates, tax credits, special financing, and discount deals on everything from attic insulation to insulated windows, new heating and cooling equipment, and solar panels. Here’s your guide to making your home more valuable while keeping your costs down.
Types of rebate and deals
Power and water carry many costs beyond the monthly bills homeowners pay. Water is increasingly precious in drought-afflicted areas, and electricity generation has environmental costs. That’s why so many government agencies give rebates for efficiency improvements – efficiency saves homeowners, utility companies, and the government money.
Here are some deals to look for when you’re upgrading your home’s heating and cooling systems, appliances, plumbing and fixtures, landscaping, irrigation, and more:
- Rebates on energy-efficient appliances and fixtures like Energy Star air conditioners, front-loading washers and low-flow toilets
- Rebates for recycling old, less efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures
- Special financing rates and rebates on general home efficiency upgrades such as solar window screens, extra insulation, and new weatherstripping
- Rebates, special financing, and federal tax credits for solar panels
- Landscaping rebates in dry areas to replace lawns with plants that need less water and to upgrade irrigation systems
Get in the habit of looking for rebates and other deals whenever you need to make an upgrade or replace a broken item. Offers change over time, so check in a couple of times a year to see what’s new.
Where to find rebates
Rebates vary by region, depending on the energy and water use in your city and state. The fastest way to see all the rebates and tax credits available in your area is to enter your state or zip code into one of the national rebate search tools.
Energy.gov, the Department of Energy’s website, lets you search by state and keyword for programs. You’ll need to select “residential” in the “filter by eligibility” section to filter out options for industry, schools, and businesses. You can also narrow your search results by category for air conditioners, whole-house improvements, and more. A search for residential deals in California turns up more than 100 options in cities around the state
The federal Energy Star program has its own rebate database for deals on qualifying appliances and equipment. For example, a zip code in Austin returns rebate deals through the local electricity provider on pool pumps, room air conditioners, and refrigerator recycling.
Another easy-to-use national search tool is DSIRE (the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency at NC State University). A clickable US map makes it easy to track down state and local rebate offers. The map page also links to rebate deals at the federal level, in US Territories, and in the District of Columbia.
If you’d rather search locally, search online with your city or county name and “conservation rebates” or go directly to your utility company websites. Most people think of electricity use when it comes to efficiency, but check with your water utility, too—especially if you live in a drought-stricken area. For example, Los Angeles County has a page devoted to water conservation rebates, landscaping tips, and tools to calculate your savings when you replace thirsty lawns with low-water use plants. It links to SoCal WaterSmart, where residents can find rebates for everything from efficient lawn sprinkler heads and turf removal to low-flow toilets and high-efficiency washing machines.
This type of search works at the state level, too. A search for “New York State conservation rebates” will show you the state’s home efficiency programs, searchable by county and number of people living in the home.
DSIRE lists 28 incentive programs at the federal level, although some of these are just for business. Among the options for homeowners are grants for low-income households and personal tax exemptions for efficiency improvements.
Plan wisely and you may get more than one rebate or incentive per improvement. For example, your electricity provider may offer a rebate, special financing, or both if you install rooftop solar panels. You may also be eligible for a federal tax credit once the system is installed. You might also get a rebate for purchasing a new, more efficient refrigerator and a rebate for recycling your old one instead of setting it up in your garage. If you get the new refrigerator on sale, that’s even better.
The rebate process usually goes smoothly, and good record keeping helps. Keep
- copies of the guidelines for each rebate program you participate in
- your purchase and installation receipts
- relevant tax forms.
Make note of rebate filing deadlines and payment wait times, and follow up with the rebate provider if you don’t get your rebate within the listed time.
Finally, hold onto the owner’s manuals and product literature from any new appliances and equipment that you install. You can share this information with your Realtor and prospective buyers when you’re ready to list your home.
Want more tips? Check out our home safety recommendations and our list of financial resources for seniors. You can also find more home sale planning information here.