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How to get energy tax credits in 2011

Energy Star label on an applianceIf you think you may have missed out on energy tax credits because you didn't get to those energy-saving improvements on your 2010 to-do list, think again. When President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 last December, the benefits included extension of many energy efficiency tax credits into 2011.

The levels and limits on these energy tax credits are lower than before; basically back to where they were when the incentives started in 2006-2007. But, if the energy saving home improvements covered are needed anytime soon, taking advantage of them is still very much worth your while, with the best deals in the bunch offered for components and systems that help you bring renewable energy into your life.Here's a quick rundown of eligible energy-saving improvements that get you credits if installed in your primary residence now through Dec. 31. Keep in mind that there's a $500 overall cap on the credits you can earn, and that the total is impacted by any related energy-efficiency credits you've earned in prior tax years (however, it doesn't affect the $1,500 limit that was available for 2009 and 2010).

Tax Credit: 10% of cost up to $500 or a set amount between $50 and $300
  • HVAC equipment, including air source heat pumps, central air conditioners, advanced main air circulating fans, furnaces and boilers
  • Insulation, including bulk products like batts and rolls, and air-sealing items such as weather stripping, caulk and house wrap
  • Metal and asphalt roofing
  • Non-solar water heaters
  • Windows, doors and skylights (credits for windows are capped at $200)
  • Biomass stoves with thermal efficiency rating of at least 75%
Tax Credit: 30% of cost with no upper limit
  • Geothermal heat pumps
  • Solar energy systems, including solar water heaters and solar panels
  • Small residential wind turbines, with a nameplate capacity of no more than 100 kilowatts
Tax Credit: 30% of cost, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity
  • Fuel cells, with efficiency of at least 30% and capacity of at least .5 kW
To receive the energy tax credits you deserve at tax time next year, hold on to receipts and Manufacturer's Certification Statements for the items you install, and plan to file 2011 IRS Form 5695. For more information on qualifying products, check the product eligibility details posted via the Alliance to Save Energy and Energy Star.

Tom Kraeutler delivers energy saving tips and more each week as host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure."

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