Tips on saving money while helping the environment through the Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 represents a historic investment in clean energy. Here’s a look at the biggest opportunities for consumers to help the environment and save money at the same time.

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The Residential Clean Energy Credit (part of the Inflation Reduction Act) offers a 30 percent tax credit when you install solar panels on your roof. The White House says the program will allow 7.5 million families to install solar panels, saving them at least $300 per year and $9,000 over the life of the system.

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The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 represents a historic investment in clean energy. The new law with $369 billion dedicated to clean energy could bring consumers tens of thousands of dollars in tax incentives and discounts and nearly $2,000 a year in savings from reduced energy costs, while creating millions of new jobs in construction, service and manufacturing over the next decade. Supporters believe that cleaner air also will prevent thousands of premature deaths a year that stem from indoor and outdoor pollution.

The law offers consumers tax credits and discounts on more than a dozen types of energy-saving purchases. The vast majority take effect in a few months, starting in 2023. It’s important to note that consumers interested in taking advantage of tax credits and discounts must navigate qualifying for them. Some of that depends on issues such as household income; some depends on which state you live in because of state subsidies. Rewiring America has an easy-to-use online calculator to help you determine how much you can get back or save on qualifying purchases. Consumers should consult their tax advisor, or specifics in their market and their own state to assess eligibility, costs and benefits. 

Here’s a look at the biggest opportunities for consumers to help the environment and save money at the same time:

New electric vehicles:

The current tax credit for buying an electric vehicle will be replaced by the Clean Vehicle Credit in 2023. It can be taken for cars with a Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price of $55,000 or less, or SUVs, pickup trucks or vans with an MSRP of $80,000 or less. The tax credit is capped at $7,500. But eligibility is based on household income; families earning more than $300,000 per year aren’t eligible for the new vehicle credit.

In 2024, consumers will get a discount at the time of purchase, instead of being required to wait for a credit when an income tax return is filed.

There are strings attached, however. At this point, the electric vehicle must be assembled in North America. And, part of the battery must be made in North America and a percentage of the minerals that make up the battery must be mined in the United States or in countries the United States has a free-trade agreement with. Right now, that means Ford, General Motors and Tesla. Other manufacturers are expected to make changes to meet the criteria.

Used electric vehicles:

Vehicle buyers will be able to get a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of a used electric vehicle that’s selling for $25,000 or less. The tax credit, called the Credit for Previously-Owned Clean Vehicles, is capped at $4,000.

In 2024, consumers will get a discount at the time of purchase, instead of being required to wait for a credit when an income tax return is filed.

But eligibility is based on household income; families earning more than $150,000 per year aren’t eligible for the new vehicle credit.

Driving an electric vehicle is estimated to save a consumer nearly $1,000 a year in gasoline, when compared with the cost of charging the vehicle. That adds up to $14,500 over 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports estimates that people who drive electric vehicles an average of 15,000 miles a year save $1,800 to $2,600 a year, when you add in lower maintenance costs because of all of the parts an electric vehicle doesn’t have that can go bad and all of the oil changes and fluid filling you don’t have to do.

 

Rooftop solar:

The Residential Clean Energy Credit offers a 30 percent tax credit when you install solar panels on your roof. This credit is in effect now. The cost of a solar panel project depends in part on the size of your home and price per watt in your state. The estimated average value of the tax credit ranges from $4,600, according to Rewiring America, to $7,000, according to the Sierra Club.

The White House says the program will allow 7.5 million families to install solar panels, saving them at least $300 per year and $9,000 over the life of the system.

Battery/energy storage:

The Residential Clean Energy Credit also offers a federal tax credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of installing a battery in your home to store energy generated by your solar rooftop panels. The tax credit takes effect in 2023.

Geothermal heating and cooling:

Consumers also don’t have to wait to enjoy a tax credit for installing geothermal heating and cooling, which runs water through underground pipes. On cold days, heat is pulled from the ground to your home. On hot days, heat from the home is transferred to the ground. Geothermal heating also provides energy for hot water tanks. Geothermal systems cost much less to operate than gas furnaces and air conditioners, and obviously rely on clean energy.

The tax credit is 30 percent and is in effect now. A typical geothermal system may cost $24,000, depending on the size of the home, according to Rewiring America, so the average tax credit would be $7,200. Geothermal systems can be expected to pay for themselves in three to 10 years, depending in part on current utility rates, the type of system and temperatures.

Electric stoves:

The High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act (HEEHRA) that’s part of the Inflation Reduction Act offers upfront rebates on electric stoves and induction stoves, which are a type of electric stove. Induction stoves use electromagnetism to heat cookware and your food. 

Electric stoves are safer than gas stoves, which contribute to indoor air pollution. Burning fossil fuels inside are believed to be connected to increased incidents of asthma and other respiratory issues. This kind of indoor air pollution disproportionately affects lower income families, who generally live in smaller homes.

The discounts, which start in 2023, are aimed at low- and moderate-income families. Low-income families earning less than 80 percent of the area median income can be eligible for a rebate covering 100 percent of costs, including installation. Moderate-income families earning 80 to 150 percent of the area median income can be eligible for a rebate covering 50 percent of costs, including installation. 

The maximum discount for an electric stove is $840.

 

Electric panels:

Consumers can get a tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of upgrading to a new electric panel to accommodate electric vehicle charging or other new electrical appliances or products. The 30 percent credit is under the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, which covers various energy-savings projects. The credit can be claimed on eligible projects every year for the next 10 years, up to $600 per year, with a few exceptions.

Low- and moderate-income consumers can qualify for different upfront rebates under the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act. The maximum electric panel rebate under HEEHRA is $4,000. The maximum rebate for all projects combined is $14,000.

 

Heat pump air conditioning/heating:

A heat pump, which runs on electricity, can heat and cool your home. Under the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, eligible consumers can get a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of the equipment and installation, with a maximum tax credit of up to $2,000 per year. 

Low- and moderate-income consumers can qualify for different upfront rebates under the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act. The maximum air conditioning/heater rebate under HEEHRA is $8,000. The maximum rebate for all projects combined is $14,000.

Heat pump water heater:

A heat pump water heater operates with electricity and relies on warm air to heat the water in the tank. Heat pump water heaters are estimated to be two or even three times more efficient than traditional electric hot water heaters.

Eligible consumers can get a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of the equipment and installation, with a maximum tax credit of up to $2,000 per year. 

Low- and moderate-income consumers can qualify for upfront rebates under the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act. The maximum heat pump water heater rebate under HEEHRA is $1,750. The maximum rebate for all projects combined is $14,000.

 

Heat pump clothes dryer:

A heat pump clothes dryer relies on refrigerant to capture hot air from the dryer, run it through a compressor to make it hotter and then push it through the dryer to dry the clothes. Heat pump clothes dryers use about half the energy of traditional electric dryers.

Low- and moderate-income consumers can qualify for upfront rebates under the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act. The maximum dryer rebate under HEEHRA is $840. The maximum rebate for all projects combined is $14,000.

Basic weatherization:

This includes insulation, ventilation and sealing drafts. Under the Energy Efficient Home Improvement Credit, a 30 percent tax credit is available starting in 2023. The maximum credit per year is $1,200.

Low- and moderate-income consumers can qualify for different upfront rebates under the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Act. The maximum weatherization rebate under HEEHRA is $1,600. The maximum rebate for all projects combined under HEEHRA is $14,000.

These programs won’t undo the damage we already see as the daily headlines are filled with heat waves, wildfires, unimaginable flooding, melting glaciers, devastating drought and menacing storms at sea. But the tax credits and discounts in this law will help Americans go solar, buy electric vehicles, retrofit their homes and more to do their part as we tackle climate change together.

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Teresa Murray

Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers' health, safety and financial security. Prior to her current role, she worked as a journalist and columnist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio's largest daily newspaper. She is the recipient of dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, Best Business Writer in Ohio, and National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Among the accomplishments she’s most proud of is receiving a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected at least 15 million customers nationwide. Her work caused Verizon to reach an $80 million settlement with the FCC, the largest ever imposed at that time. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons and a dog. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.

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