Most of us love saving money from anywhere we can pinch it. You can do it the hard way, by writing up a budget and finding all the fun, little things you spend money on that you don't really need. For me, I'm thinking about that double dip at the Sunday movies when I couldn't resist the urge to spend four straight hours in cinematic bliss or those mochas that are oh-so-good, but not so light on the waistline or the pocketbook. We all have them.

But another way to cash in on big savings is by grabbing onto the energy efficiency tax credits offered through the IRS and detailed here by the Department of Energy. The incentive credits you 30% of the cost of eligible energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems toward your income taxes. Since it's the beginning of the year, you have plenty of time to select the money-saving consumer energy products that make the most sense for your home.

Some of the big-ticket items that qualify include high-efficiency central air conditioners, furnaces, and boilers that meet certain standards listed on the linked website under the HVAC tab. An investment in efficiency products can start saving you considerable money over the long run and save you up to $1,500 on your 2010 taxes. It can also be applied to purchases of eligible insulation, roofing, non-solar water heaters, and windows and doors. Keep in mind that if you took advantage of the credits in 2009, you are limited to a total of $1,500 in energy efficiency tax credits over the two-year period of the program, which expires at the end of 2010.

Renewable energy products can also slash your energy bills and lower your carbon footprint. The technologies eligible under the credits include solar and wind energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and fuel cells. Check out that same Web site for more details. This tax credit also helps you recoup 30% of the cost of the renewable energy systems, but unlike the efficiency credit, it doesn't have an upper limit—and it's available through 2016. By using it to upgrade your home's energy systems, this program could quickly move you toward the goal of net-zero living.

If you choose to combine high-efficiency measures with renewable energy systems, as many cutting-edge green building companies are doing cost-effectively today, you can bring your older house in line with your sustainability goals. Under the incentive program, you can get both the energy efficiency credit capped at $1,500 and the limitless renewable energy credit.

Finally, there are also tax credits available for various efficient vehicles on the market. Research your purchase carefully and talk to a tax expert, because some of the vehicles no longer qualify for the credit.

From ENERGY STAR® appliances to mortgages on high-efficiency homes, there are also lots of other financial incentives available that help consumers move into our clean-energy future. And for those of us wanting to align our ideals with our economic realities, these are investments that keep on giving.


Eric Barendsen is a communications specialist and Presidential Management Fellow with EERE's Technology Advancement and Outreach office.