I recently discovered an amazing website for homeowners and commercial real estate owners who want to lower their energy bills. It’s called DSIREusa.org (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency). What a mouthful!
The site shows a state by state list of what tax credits, rebates, and incentives your state is currently offering to offset the cost of energy improvements, including but not limited to:
- Insulating your home better
- Sealing leaks
- Replacing or upgrading windows
- Installing solar panels
- Installing geothermal heating and cooling
How to use DSIRE to find energy credits and incentives
1. From the map on the homepage, click on your state
2. Scan the list of available incentives to see what is available
3. Check eligibility dates as I saw several programs that had already ended
4. Click through on a particular incentive to get more info, deadlines, and how to apply
TIP: In the left column there is a search button so you can narrow down incentives by sector, state, technology, and type of incentive.
What is DSIRE and who funds it?
DSIRE is the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is currently operated by the N.C. Solar Center at N.C. State University, with support from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. DSIRE is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
That’s from the DSIRE website. So we know it’s not funded by someone trying to sell us something. Look for a new and updated DSIRE.org website in December. I expect the site to be even easier to use then.
TIP: Getting state incentives does not preclude you from applying for and receiving federal incentives!
What else can I do to lower my energy bill?
- Scour your local utility’s website for incentives. I recently paid $40 for 12 LED light bulbs – a savings of $200 – because I noticed my utility had a special program.
- Get a free energy audit, which your local utility may offer. An energy audit is when a professional auditor comes to your home, spends 1-2 hours poking around your basement and attic, then makes recommendations for how you can seal up leaks and better insulate, along with other improvements that will lower your electric, gas, or oil bill. If you can’t find a free energy audit online, it may be worth it to pay out of pocket for one. A $150-$300 energy audit could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
- Cover your windows with plastic sheets (you can buy the kits in a hardware store). Using double sided tape and a hair dryer, you’ll essentially add another layer to your windows, keeping heat in. With another layer of insulation, your home heating system does not have to work as hard – or burn as much fuel!
- Keep your freezer full. A full freezer – even one stuffed with frozen jugs of water – doesn’t have to work as hard as one that is half-empty.
- Program your thermostat (or upgrade to one that is programmable). Programming the thermostat to heat the house when you are home, and lay off the heating when you are away saves money. And you don’t have to constantly fidget with the temperature.
- Upgrade to CFLs or LEDs. We recently compared the cost and benefits of these two types of lightbulbs.
- Open south-facing curtains and close north-facing ones. Sunlight on your southern exposures will heat up your home, while curtains on the north side will block cool air blowing against your home.