EcoManor – the first certifiably green mansion

Take a look at “the first home over 5,000 square feet ever to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council”. Features?

  • wheat-core doors,
  • elegant wallpaper made from recycled newspaper,
  • floors made from “fallen” oak,
  • soy-based cellulose insulation, and
  • an energy-use monitor in the kitchen.

Read more and take the video tour – Fortune online.

Aussies go with the flo – to ban incandescent bulbs

Australia has taken a ground-breaking step in reducing energy consumption and addressing the “climate change challenge”(global warming). The government has committed to phasing out traditional incandescent light bulbs by the year 2010.

“A normal light bulb is too hot to hold. That heat is wasted and globally represents millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that needn’t have been emitted into the atmosphere if we had used more efficient forms of lighting … These more efficient lights, such as the compact fluorescent light bulb, use around 20 percent of the electricity to produce the same amount of light.”
– Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Interesting. I wonder if other nations will follow suit. Apparently, similar legislation was proposed in California last month.

Read more – Bright idea? Australia pulls plug on light bulbs.

Tax Breaks for Going Green

Saving on your taxes isn’t the reason most people choose to go green, but every little bit helps. Most of the tax breaks are for making your home more energy efficient – saving fuel or electricity – from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT). These home improvement tax breaks are only effective from Jan 1, 2006 to Dec 31, 2007. So you can claim these tax credits (as opposed to tax deductions) on your 2006 and 2007 tax returns and that’s it.

A tax credit is a better bang for your buck than a tax deduction because “a tax credit reduces tax dollar-for-dollar, while a deduction only removes a percentage of the tax that is owed. “.

Well alright then. Here’s a tax-saving summary from the US Department of Energy website:

Product Category

Product Type

Tax Credit Specification

Tax Credit

Windows Exterior Windows Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments 10% of cost not to exceed $200 total
Skylights Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments 10% of cost not to exceed $200 total
Exterior Doors Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments 10% of cost not to exceed $500 total
Roofing Metal Roofs Energy Star qualified 10% of cost not to exceed $500 total
Insulation Insulation Meet 2000 IECC & Amendments 10% of cost not to exceed $500 total
HVAC Central AC EER 12.5/SEER 15 split Systems EER 12/SEER 14 package systems $300
Air source heat pumps HSPF 9 EER 13 SEER 15 $300
Geothermal heat pump EER 14.1 COP 3.3 closed loopEER 16.2 COP 3.6 open loopEER 15 COP 3.5 direct expansion $300
Gas, oil, propane water heater Energy Factor 0.80 $300
Electric heat pump water heater Energy Factor 2.0 $300
Gas, oil, propane furnace or hot water boiler AFUE 95 $150
Advanced main air circulating fan No more than 2% of furnace total energy use $50

That all sounds really great, but you should know there are some catches to counting up your credits:

The credit is usually 10 percent of the cost, though there may be separate limits for specific devices. For example, up to $50 can be claimed for a main circulating air fan and up to $150 for a natural gas, propane or oil furnace, or hot water boiler. No more than $200 of the credit can be for windows.

The credit is limited to $500 for the 2006 and 2007 tax years combined. So if you claim the entire $500 credit for 2006, you won’t get the credit for 2007.

Separately, taxpayers can take a credit of 30 percent of the cost of a solar panel, solar water heater or fuel cell power plant to heat their homes, up to a maximum credit of $2,000. No part of such a system can be used to heat a pool or hot tub, however.

To be eligible for a residential energy credit, the device has to be “qualified energy property,” meaning it must meet criteria established by the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code and its supplements or, for windows and certain other items, bear the Energy Star label.
AP article on MSNBC

You should also keep your documentation as a precaution “just in case” – proof of purchase plus any promotional material or certifications from the manufacturer.

The EPA estimates that by using efficient materials you can save up to 30% in energy costs. Before jumping in and investing in the high end solutions, you should audit of your home to determine where energy is being wasted.

Most local utilities will perform one free. It highlights your home’s trouble spots where the most energy is being wasted. For a couple hundred dollars, private companies improve the service through the use of thermal imaging to graphically map out on a micro level the points at which energy loss occurs … The biggest perpetrators are almost always windows and doorways …
Matt Woolsey on Forbes.com Real Estate

And of course, windows and doors are eligible for credit.

Improving the energy efficiency of your home saves energy, saves money, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Plus you get a tax credit.

For more visuals, check out this slideshow on Tips For Greener, Less Expensive Living on Forbes.com.

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