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Monday, March 2, 2009

Stimulus funds encourage homeowners to improve energy use

From an article by Liz Welter in the Marshfield News-Herald:

There's good news in the federal stimulus bill for homeowners -- about $42 billion in energy-related tax credits.

The bill upped the ante on tax credits, from a 10 percent return to 30 percent return, on energy-efficient home improvements. It includes everything from new windows to air conditioners to solar energy systems.

"This is good. I'm glad this has been signed and approved, because one of my goals is to make sure energy and water are being used efficiently and responsibly," said Jim Bensen, conservation specialist at Marshfield Utilities.

Bensen conducts free home energy audits for any customer of the utility.

"It's a good way to see where you could save some money," he said.

Audits usually take about one hour at the home and then several hours to enter the numbers into a computer, analyze the data and prepare a report.

"I'll go through the report with the person and explain where to start on savings. A lot of this is weatherizing your home. Just one leak, like around your chimney, or the pipe that goes outside to the faucet, can make a different. Add those all up, and it's a substantial savings," he said.

It's not just older homes that need weatherizing, he said.

"I did a home last week built in 2004, and there's a lot of weatherizing the owner can do to save a lot of money. And a lot of it, you don't need to hire someone to do," Bensen said.

Through the state's Focus on Energy program, Bensen said, there are resources available to residents to learn about the feasibility and possibility of using alternative energy sources. Bensen said he often refers residential, business and farming clients to Focus on Energy for assistance.

Wisconsinites are in a good position to take advantage of these energy-saving incentives, said Kathy Kuntz, director of energy programs at Focus on Energy.

"Our problem isn't going to be that (Wisconsinites) couldn't find the appliance or the installer, because we have the infrastructure," she said.

Not all states have agencies such as Focus on Energy to help guide consumers, she said, and added that the state also has a variety of companies selling and installing solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies.

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