There is a lot of pressure on landlords right now to ensure that their properties are at optimal energy efficiency. In New York, a city of creaky old buildings often in need of repair, Mayor de Blasio launched a program to encourage private landlords to improve their buildings, with a $3.5 million grant helping to fund the Building Energy Exchange, a resource center for those looking for help. Landlords can choose to make these upgrades... for now. The announcement contained some dark hints about forcing non-compliant landlords to make improvements at a later time.
It's not just the government pushing for energy efficiency. Tenants are also demanding more efficient rental properties, aware that less efficiency means that they'll be left with higher energy bills. There are a number of reasons to make sure that you immediately improve all of your properties right away to ensure optimal efficiency.
And there's one reason not to: how the heck are you going to pay for those big upfront costs?
Help is at hand (maybe)
Funding is available for improvements. Finding it, however, is a challenge. The majority of grants are organized at a state level, run for a limited period, and have strict criteria for qualification. And they don't reach out to you -- these grants all rely on you discovering them yourself.
Fortunately there is now a tool that can help. Funded by the Department of Energy, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE, is a tool that allows you to keep track of all grants and incentives currently available in your area. It's worth monitoring it on a regular basis to see if anything appropriate has been added to your state.
Common types of grant
While the grants themselves are forever changing, there are recurring types that appear again and again. When considering any of these improvements, be sure to check DSIRE for anything that may help alleviate the cost.
One of the only national options aimed at energy efficiency is the Weatherization Home Grant Program, which seeks to assist lower-income families to improve heat retention in their home. Other options are available, and some energy companies will offer rebates to those who correctly weatherproof their homes.
Upgrades to energy efficient products
Homeowners were previously allowed to claim a rebate on purchases up to $500 on items such as heaters and air conditioners under the Residential Energy Efficiency Tax Credit. This temporary rebate ended in 2014 but may be replaced by another. Meanwhile, other kinds of rebate are available, with some energy companies offering mail-in rebates when you energy-efficient household items such as dishwashers and washing machines.
Renewable energy grants
There are numerous benefits to installing solar panels and other methods of generating renewable energy. In some cases, you can sell your excess energy to power companies. Also, many states now offer an incentive such as California's Self-Generation Incentive Program.
Is it worth getting a loan?
The Federal Housing Commission is running a pilot option right now. It's not available in every state yet, but the PowerSaver Loan Scheme allows eligible homeowners to apply for a loan of up to $25,000 for energy efficiency improvements to their homes. The loans are at favorable rates and can either be secured or unsecured depending on the size of the loan. Unlike a grant, of course, the loan does have to be paid back, but it's a relatively cheap way of funding the changes to your property that may soon become mandatory.
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