Sunday, June 26, 2011

A New Round of Rebate Funding for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Rebate Program was originally launched in late October 2009 by Governor Kane. Utilizing a portion of the stimulus dollars that Virginia received to support the purchase of energy efficient products and upgrades for Virginia homeowners and commercial businesses. Energy efficiency improvements under the program included upgrading heating and air conditioning equipment, adding insulation, replacing leaky windows, and other improvements to reduce energy consumption. Homeowners were eligible for rebates for up to 20 % of the costs of qualifying products and projects, up to a maximum of $2,000.

The first round of funding totaling about $10 million was reserved in less than three weeks when the program opened. In late March 2010, Governor Bob McDonnell announced that approximately $6.5 million was available for a second round of the rebate program to make existing homes and businesses more energy efficient. Funds for the second and final round of the Energy Efficiency Rebate Program were exhausted on March 26, 2010. Over 3,000 applicants were wait-listed, and eventually approved for rebates when much of the rebate reservations were not used. The Energy Efficiency Rebate Program was closed out on April 29, 2011 after paying out $10.4 million to Virginia homeowners and businesses.

Once more, unclaimed funds remain and are now being made available to other homeowners. Approximately $5 million will be available for a new Virginia Home Efficiency Rebate Program to make existing homes more energy efficient. Energy efficiency improvements include upgrading heating equipment, adding insulation, replacing windows, and making other improvements to existing homes that reduce energy consumption and utility costs. Under this new program, homeowners will be eligible to reserve funds for rebates for up to 20 % of the costs of qualifying products or services, up to $595 whichever is less. Also a rebate is available for energy audits for the cost of the audit or $250 which ever is less. The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy opened up the reservation process at noon of June 20th 2011 and the money is likely to be gone quickly, but sign up on the waiting list. Any money not used within the time limit will become available to those on the wait list. The $5 million is simply unclaimed funds from other rounds.

Qualified energy efficient items and improvements purchased and installed on or after March 26, 2010 are eligible for the rebate if they meet all the other eligibility requirements. So if you were shut out of the last round of rebates and have an the required documentation, and used a Virginia business to purchase or perform the work you can apply. Items covered under the program are: oil furnace, gas, propane or oil hot water boiler, Insulation and air sealing, replacement windows and exterior doors, storm doors. Funding is available for homeowners to reserve funds for geothermal heat pump systems under our new Geothermal Heat Pump Rebate Program. The geothermal rebate is 20% of the cost or $2,000 which ever is less.

These rebates are for Virginia homeowners only, not commercial facilities and the energy efficiency products and systems must be purchased from a Virginia company. In addition, these items qualify under the Federal Home Energy Efficiency Improvement Tax Credit Program The tax credit amount was reduced to 10% of cost up to $500 on qualifying items installed in 2011 and additional restrictions were added. More information on the federal tax credits, which were extended until December 31, 2011, is available at the Department of Energy web site.

One of my most successful home improvement projects was my home insulation project. Following the recommendations by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory the attic, crawl spaces, eves, ductwork, underside of a large portion of the main level floor were insulated with cellulose. The pipes, end caps, knee wall, sump pumps and all identified areas were sealed, the garage was insulated and an insulated garage door installed. My total electricity bills for the following 12 months were 27% less than I paid in the 12 months before I added the additional insulation to the house, and the winter liquid propane usage (as measured in volume used December through March for both years) was reduced by 25%. I was very surprised at the energy savings for what was a well insulated home. The payback on this project was under 4 years, and I did not get any rebates because I completed the project in 2007.

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