Keeping Florida Our Home Sweet Home, Part 2Contributed By: Marty Winchester

In light of the recent tax relief bill and subsequent budget cuts to Florida’s water systems, homeowners are becoming more aware of the need for energy efficiency and conservation. As we discussed in Keeping Florida Our Home Sweet Home Part 1, the bill designed to relieve the tax burden of property owners is cause for concern for the environment, partially because of the cuts made to the Everglades Foundation.

Another reason citizens are concerned about the bill is job loss. The water service center in Stuart will be closing and as a result, its 25-35 employees will either be laid off or relocated to West Palm Beach. While that may seem like a small number of jobs, 10% of the residents of Stuart (population: 14,000) already lives below the poverty line; the cost of living is higher in Stuart than the national average.

One way to counter-balance the issues imposed by the tax relief bill is for homeowners to make improvements to their homes for the sake of the environment. In doing so, you can potentially lighten the burden of your income tax more significantly than the property tax bill, which will save Florida homeowners less than $100 a year on average.

To date, the energy-efficiency tax credits cover:

    Insulation – 10% of cost up to $500
    Roofing – 10% of cost up to $500
    HVAC – tiered credits range from $50 – $300

    Water heaters
    Non-solar – $300 credit
    Solar – 30% of cost, no upper limit

    Windows, Doors and Skylights – 10% of cost, $200 cap for windows.
    Geothermal Heat Pumps – 30% of cost, no upper limit
    Wind Energy Systems – 30% of cost, no upper limit
    Fuel Cells – 30% of cost, up to $500 per .5 kW of power capacity
    Biomass Stoves – $300 credit

Depending on the situation, a homeowner may also qualify for tax rebates up to $1,000 for hiring a certified energy rater and licensed contractor. While you can’t give the Stuart service center employees their jobs back, you can make a statement by providing work for the environmentally conscious. EnergyStar offers tips for finding “green” contractors and specialists.

Unfortunately, most of the energy efficiency tax credits are only available to homeowners upgrading their primary residence. The only upgrades the tax credit covers for second homes are solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and small wind turbines. The good news is that residential and commercial property managers are being given new incentives to go green because of the Better Buildings Initiative and other proposals made by the White House early this year. Congress is working to create tax incentives for property owners in a way that will also create jobs.