A Tax Credit for Going Green
Feb 18, 2015
Thinking about installing a renewable energy system in your residence? Uncle Sam offers individual taxpayers a federal income-tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of qualified residential energy-efficient property (REEP) placed in service in 2015 or 2016.
What Systems Can Qualify?
Credit-eligible property includes:
- Solar electric
- Solar water heating
- Geothermal heat pump (uses ground or ground water as a thermal energy source for heating or cooling)
- Small wind energy (generates electricity using a wind turbine)
- Fuel cell (generates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen through an electrochemical process)
The credit covers the cost of both the equipment and its installation, including labor and any piping or wiring necessary to connect it to your home.
The system must meet specified standards for energy efficiency. You should obtain a certification from the manufacturer that the component you are purchasing meets the relevant requirements for the REEP credit. Note that the manufacturer’s certification is different from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star label; not all products with the Energy Star label meet the credit requirements.
When available, the tax credit is quite generous. For example, let’s say you spend $6,000 in 2015 on a home solar water heating system that meets all requirements for the REEP tax credit. After considering the $1,800 credit ($6,000 × 30%), the system costs you only $4,200.
The home you are installing the equipment in must be located in the United States and you must use it as your residence. The credit is not available for equipment used to heat a swimming pool or hot tub.
Solar, geothermal, or wind energy property can qualify for the credit whether it is installed in your principal residence or another residence. The credit for fuel cell property is limited to equipment installed in your principal residence.
As for cost, the tax law generally places no dollar limits on the credit. However, there is an exception for fuel cell property: The maximum credit is $500 for each 0.5 kilowatt of capacity.
Some states and public utilities offer incentives to encourage the purchase of energy-efficient property. Certain types of incentives may require an adjustment to your purchase price or cost for credit calculation purposes.