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Tax credit offered for energy efficient appliances

COVINGTON -- Locals who buy certain energy efficient appliances can qualify for tax credits under legislation passed by Congress to avoid a national "fiscal cliff."

The legislation included a reinstatement of tax credits that expired in 2011, making them retroactive for the year 2012 through Dec. 31, 2013.

Bill Meecham, utilities director for the city of Covington, said federal regulations as well as industry guidelines for many new appliances establish minimum efficiency levels, such as the SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, ratings for air conditioning.

"These result in much more efficient equipment than was made in the past. At one time, some years back, an SEER of 8.0 was acceptable for air conditioning. A new unit with a rating of 14 to 16 is much more efficient, turning out many more cooling BTUs per watt of electricity. When you consider that there are still some of those 8.0-rated units out there and because of age and wear, they're not even meeting 8.0, a new system makes sense. Environment-wise, carbon emissions from fossil-fuel power generation are also reduced," he said.

The tax credits apply to the following appliances:

-- Water heaters -- $300 tax credit

- Electric heat pump water heaters with an energy factor of at least 2.0

- Natural gas, propane, or oil water heater with an energy factor of at least 0.82 or a thermal efficiency of at least 90 percent

--Furnaces -- $150 tax credit

- Natural gas, propane, or oil furnace with an AFUE of not less than 95

Boilers

- Natural gas, propane, or oil boiler with an AFUE of not less than 95

-- Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps -- $300 tax credit

-Split system central air conditioner that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (16 SEER; 13 EER)

-Packaged central air conditioner that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (14 SEER; 12 EER)

-Split system electric heat pump that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.5 HSPF; 12.5 EER; 15 SEER)

-Packaged electric heat pump that achieves the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.0 HSPF; 12.0 EER; 14 SEER)

-- Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan -- $50 tax credit

-A fan used in a natural gas, propane, or oil furnace with an annual electricity use of no more than 2 percent of the total energy use of the furnace

"I think that one thing that's great in the legislation is the ability to take the tax credit for a covered appliance that you had installed during 2012. That's a nice, and unexpected, present from Uncle Sam. Don't forget, this is a credit, not a deduction against income, so you get the full value of the credit," Meecham said.

The city of Covington also offers rebates for customers who purchase certain energy efficient appliances, such as natural gas tankless water heaters, which could be of double benefit to customers. Meecham said the city recommends natural gas tankless water heaters, which save energy by only consuming gas when someone in the house actually uses hot water.

"We do not have rebates for many of the items listed on the government's tax credit list, but in the case of the tankless water heater, we have a $200 rebate that, combined with the tax credit, yields $500 to the customer," Meecham said.

"The city does have the option for homeowners of low-cost financing of gas water heaters and heating/cooling systems through the (Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia) on-bill financing program. It avoids the high interest rates that some finance programs have and only charges a monthly service fee," he added.

For more information about the city's rebate program, contact Stacy Walden at 770-385-2027.