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Homeowners score big in stimulus - Rebates up to $8K

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LA Post: Homeowners score big in stimulus - Rebates up to $8K
Claude Taylor
March 18, 2024

Homeowners in select states could soon qualify for rebates up to $8,000 from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by upgrading to more energy efficient appliances. The rebates aim to offset costs for swapping items like furnaces or stoves to environmentally friendly models. 

The IRA passed in 2022 allotted $8.8 billion for home efficiency rebates nationwide. States must apply to access funding and then distribute rebates locally. So far, California, New York, New Mexico, and Hawaii have initiated the process.

Residents in these leading states may see rebates materialize this year if state plans get approved swiftly. Officials project Hawaiian rebates could launch in late 2024. With more states expected to follow, the program will likely run through 2027 as funds continue allocation. 

Homeowners who recently purchased qualifying items post-August 2022 can still benefit through retroactive rebates. However, some may choose to briefly delay planned upgrades until rebates open in their region.

The Department of Energy outlined broad categories and amounts for rebates. Upgrading HVAC systems to efficient electric heat pumps provides the biggest potential savings at up to $8,000. Installing heat pump water heaters qualifies for up to $1,750, while swapping out gas stoves for induction ranges offers up to $840. Various insulation improvements and electrical upgrades also qualify for thousands.

In all, a household making comprehensive changes could accumulate up to $14,000 in rebates. Actual amounts vary based on specific equipment and each state's policies. Lower income families will likely see more generous incentives.  

Which upgrades ultimately qualify and rebate details depend on what each state decides during IRA implementation. But the categories will generally mirror the DoE's guidance. Homeowners should watch for local announcements on exactly how much they can save.

"My advice? Keep checking for updates, as new rebates could open up for your area soon," said finance expert Michael Ryan. He explained that states quick to solidify programs get more funds initially.

While cash incentives help counter the upgrade costs, Ryan said the long-term utility savings make green appliances a smart budget move regardless. 

He estimates swapping an electric heat pump for an old AC or furnace can save households around $1000 yearly on bills. And heat pump water heaters typically save users over $400 annually.

"With rebates knocking 30-50% off appliance costs upfront, we're talking thousands in net savings over 5-10 years for everyday Americans," Ryan said.

Besides utility savings, the program touts reducing environmental impact as homes cut carbon emissions. The switch to induction stoves also improves indoor air quality by eliminating combustion byproducts.

Rebate eligibility differs slightly between states but generally follows income thresholds based on area median income levels. For context, Hawaii outlines the following criteria:

  • Single family homes with income up to 80% of county median qualify for full rebates.
  • From 80-140% of median, households get 50% of maximum rebates.
  • Those between 140-200% of county median income receive rebates on a case-by-case basis.

Specific equipment must meet Energy Star efficiency standards based on DoE guidance. Homeowners need to confirm particular models or contractor quotes qualify before purchasing. 

Households also require pre-approval before buying new systems or appliances to guarantee rebate eligibility. Check state program sites for required steps once applications open.

The application process remains unclear until states finalize details. But expect to submit income verification, existing equipment invoices, and quotes/details for new items. States then confirm you qualify for preset rebate amounts based on your criteria.

Some states like California are also developing rebate aggregators to help homeowners navigate applications. These third parties ensure you follow proper protocols to guarantee rebate approval.

While state programs ramp up, experts suggest homeowners research and plan potential upgrades now. Determine if your equipment meets efficiency criteria and obtain quotes from contractors. This way you can act quickly once rebates become available.

And don't fret about rebate amounts yet. "Funds will continue being allocated through 2027 as more states finalize their programs," Ryan reiterated. 

With federal incentives supporting the transition to energy efficient homes nationwide, Americans can make an environmentally and financially savvy change while offsetting upgrade costs. Check regulations in your state so you're ready to take advantage of rebates when they arrive.

Energy policy experts applaud the IRA's rebates as overdue support needed to spur more sustainable home upgrades.

"These substantial rebates can finally help overcome the upfront cost barriers that have prevented many households from switching to efficient electric appliances, despite the long-term savings," said Dr. James Smith of the Clean Energy Institute. 

Previously, green upgrades like induction stovetops or heat pump HVAC systems often cost thousands more than conventional replacements. This deterred lower- and middle-income families especially.

"But with rebates covering 30-50% now, the price difference narrows significantly," Smith noted. "It's a smart incentive structure to drive adoption."

However, some critics argue federal funds shouldn't subsidize personal home renovations. They believe utility companies and states should instead accelerate the transition through mandates.

"Rather than sending checks to individual homeowners, we need sweeping regulatory changes to phase out inefficient appliances entirely," contends Tom Wilson of Climate Solutions Nonprofit. "Rebates are a temporary patch allowing continued sales of unsustainable tech."  

Others counter the direct consumer incentives help kickstart demand rapidly. They point to the success of federal EV tax credits accelerating electric vehicle purchases.

Supporters also highlight using carrots before sticks. "It makes sense to reward people for upgrading before considering bans on gas stoves or furnaces," said economist Dr. Rebecca Hansen. "Progress through incentives is often fastest. Heavy-handed mandates risk backlash."

As states continue applying for IRA funds, energy and climate focused groups are advising residents to make their upgrade wishes heard locally. 

"Contact staterulemaking officials and utility commissions to recommend expanded incentive programs you want to see," recommended Brad Jones of Environment Colorado. "The more public engagement, the better policies get crafted to benefit communities."

While states finalize plans, experts forecast a surge of eco-conscious renovations over the next few years. With the IRA poised to deliver on its energy efficiency goals, greener homes could become the new norm. But only if states utilize the federal support prudently and citizens take advantage of the savings.


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