Energy Upgrade Behavior Impacted By Credits

Federal tax credits for home energy-efficiency improvements shrank in the new year, and a survey suggests that could have a significant effect on the number of Americans doing things like replacing windows, adding insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances. So says Shelton Group, a Tennessee-based advertising agency that has been tracking consumer attitudes regarding energy for years.

Shelton said its “Utility Pulse” survey revealed that 25 percent of respondents wouldn’t have made home-energy improvements without an incentive. Another 7 percent said they spent more on their improvement because of the incentive. “That means at a minimum, about one third of Americans who made their homes more energy efficient would likely not have done so if it weren’t for the incentives,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group.

Shelton Group, Utility Pulse survey, energy efficiency improvements

image via Shelton Group

For 2011, the maximum cumulative credit for qualifying energy-efficiency improvements is $500, down from $1,500, of which $200 can be claimed for windows and skylights, Shelton noted. More information on the federal tax credit is available from the U.S. Department of Energy, which also offers comprehensive info on state, local, utility and nonprofit incentive programs.

The Shelton survey also suggested that to really make a difference on the monthly utility bill, just a few improvements won’t do the trick. Shelton said that people who had done around five improvements saw significant savings, while those who did fewer tended to be disappointed with the impact on their energy bill.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.