11 September 2010

Green Homes Tour and MD/DC (and VA) Incentives Roundup

(Updates marked in red below - Nov and Dec 2010) This is a slightly longer version (with images) of the article found in my Sept 2010 Going Green column in the Takoma/Silver Spring/Kensington Voice column...

Green Homes and Gardens Tour and

Incentives to Save Energy

It's almost time of year again for our local Green Homes and Gardens tour, and regional Solar Tour. Please see the details below and also learn about how much stimulus money and local incentives are available to help you go green to save money, energy and other resources at your home or business. (and there's a summary of local green tours info at the end.)

3rd Annual Takoma Area Green Homes and Gardens Tour

Saturday, Oct 2, 2010 - 11am - 5pm:

Caption: NOTE THIS IS A PREVIEW MAP (from 2009) ONLY – You can request or download a guide map for the Takoma Area Green Homes Tour at: www.SolarTour.org or www.Truthful-Living.com (created by Sat Jiwan with Google Maps)

As part of the regional DC Solar Homes Tour, there will be a one-day, sub-tour of green homes and gardens in the Takoma Park area. This smaller tour will have a handful of solar homes, but will have several additional homes and sites (not listed in the main solar tour guide) highlighting other green building features – from energy efficiency and conservation, to non-toxic and salvaged materials, to corn stoves, biodiesel furnaces and cars, to green roofs, rain gardens, storm water management and native landscaping.... AND a demonstration energy audit with blower door test – so you can see how easily you can make changes in your own home.

CAPTION: Historic District Green Renovation and Addition – featuring lots and lots of insulation: R20 slab, R40 walls and R60 – cellulose, denim, closed cell spray foam, SIS exterior wall panels, interior XPS and polyiso rigid foam board and more... (photo by Sat Jiwan)

Lower Footprint Touring: Since many of these homes are within a 1-2 mile radius, it will be easier to see many of them, and potentially you can walk or bike to them, all in one afternoon. (Look for bike tour information and possibly a biodiesel shuttle bus option as the event gets closer.)

Go Green Before Going Solar: Many of the homes on the green tour will emphasize cost-effective home improvements that will pay for themselves within 5-10 years (or less) and save money every year afterward. After addressing energy-efficiency, it then makes sense to explore appropriately-sized solar and renewable energy systems with longer paybacks. With rising energy costs, and other looming effects of peak oil and climate change, it’s more important than ever to learn about and implement these changes, big and small, to improve our local self-reliance.

You can request or download a guide map for the Takoma Area Green Homes Tour at: www.SolarTour.org or www.Truthful-Living.com

Rebates, Tax Credits, and Getting Paid to Save Energy:

During the summer we don't use much energy for heating, so the majority of our energy use is in the form of electricity and for some people a high air conditioning bill to cope with the summer heat. There's several incentive programs recently or currently operating due to stimulus money and tax credits coming from the federal government and some more local incentive programs often run through the utility. Even programs that will pay you to NOT to use energy.

Peak electricity use spikes during the middle of the afternoon on weekdays in the late spring, summer and early fall, and real-time electricity prices rise, along with increased pollution and chances of power service interruption. Even though residential electricity bills often have higher summer rates in general, there is no “time-of-use metering” to reflect the higher-cost, dirtier electricity so there's no incentive for changing when we use our electricity. In response to this there are several incentive programs to help reduce electricity use overall and especially the electricity used during those peak periods.

NOTE FOR RENTERS: get permission of landlord to share costs or take advantage of some of these often free offers, though (for some silly reason) some offers are just for primary residences.

Earn Money from Pepco – if you have central air conditioning, get paid $80 upfront and up to $80 more over the summer months for letting them install a “digital cycling unit” to your outdoor unit. Earn the maximum reward for allowing them to turn off your air conditioning 100% during the peak energy use periods, or a portion of the reward for 50-75% cycling options. This works especially well for people out of the house during the day and early evening. Also, even if you are home during the day, you can get by without sacrificing much comfort by using some of the natural cooling strategies (see my archived articles) or doing “pre-cooling” before anticipated conservation periods. (Note: I tried to sign up the 100% level, but since my A/C unit is a new, super high-efficiency unit, it wasn't compatible which may also be the case with very old units. Though, in most cases, you do not need to be home for the installation.)

Free from Pepco – if you have central air conditioning, you can receive a free digital, internet or manually programmable thermostat to help you save and energy and control your comfort. You do need to be home for the installation.

To sign up or get more info visit: EnergyWiseRewards.Pepco.com or call (NOTE: Energy Wise Rewards is currently only for Maryland customers – until a similar program is approved for DC residents)

$40 (or free) Quick Home Energy Check-up – if you're a MD Pepco customer and you have electric heat or central A/C, you can get a $40 quick energy check up, or have the fee waived if you agree to install three simple energy upgrades at the time of inspection from pre-selected energy contractors. Call 866-353-5798 to schedule.

$100 Energy Audits – if you're a MD Pepco customer and you have electric heat or central A/C, you can get $100 audits if you use a pre-selected auditor (I like Live Green, EcoBeco, TerraLogos and Magic in Your Attic ).Details here: HomeEnergySavings.Pepco.com

Up to $1200 incentives to complete work recommended by energy audit above. Ask pre-selected auditor for details.

$100 HVAC tune-ups or $300 off new units – MD customers receive discounted services or rebate on new unit installation by using one of their participating contractors. Call 866-353-5798 or visit: HomeEnergySavings.Pepco.com

Combined Coupons for Appliance Rebates (while supplies/funding lasts) – Combine state rebates with utility-issued EmPower MD rebates and get up to $25 off room air conditioners, $100 off freezers, $500 off heat pump and central A/C units, $100 off energy-efficient refrigerators and clothes washers and $300 off heat pump water heaters, . Detail through the state MEA website: Energy.Maryland.gov (note: a client of mine went refrigerator shopping recently and said there's low inventory on the models that qualify for all the rebates, so you might need to plan ahead.)

MD State Update Nov 2010 -

The Appliance Rebate Program ends Friday, Nov. 12. To date, the program has expended 89% of funding. More at: http://energy.maryland.gov/Residential/applianceRebate.html

Dec 2010: MD Pepco Appliance rebates still available for refrigerator ($50), window A/C ($25), water heaters ($20), and HVAC (up to $300). See: http://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/md/appliance-rebate

But wait, there's more!!

For Montgomery County residents, you can earn up to $250 property tax credit for energy efficiency devices (including a biomass stove) and 50% up to $5000 for solar PV and geothermal systems (up to $1500 for solar hot water). Program dollars are extremely limited, especially for the overly generous renewable energy credit, so get your application in right away – the new funding cycle started July 1). Details at: MoCo's Dept of Env Protection website.

If you order now, we'll even include, at no additional cost... (and this one is available for DC RESIDENTS even if you don't have a vote in congress!)

Federal energy efficiency tax credits – until the end of 2010 (unless extended by Congress) you can earn a 30% up to $1500 tax credit for installation of qualified energy efficient appliances, insulation, new windows, biomass/corn stoves, etc. (this applies after other rebates and credits, and is the same credit and cumulative cap as 2009, so you can only claim it up to the maximum one time). More at: EnergyStar.gov


Efficiency Rebates: About a million dollars is available for appliance rebates for gas and electric water heaters, refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers, and furnaces and boilers went into effect 7/15/2010. Rebates are $50-300. Details at: Green.DC.gov or call 202.673.6733.

Other Incentives: The generous solar energy rebate program is taking applications and there is still a free energy audit available for all DC residents (rentals or primary residences).

DC UPDATE: Nov 2010 -

Pepco incentives: CFL Bulbs: $1.50-$3 (up to 25 bulbs), Refrigerator: $50, Room A/C: $25 (up to 5 units, $25 each), Water Heater: $20 - More at: http://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/dc/appliance-rebate

City Rebates: (INCLUDES WEATHERIZATION): Clothes Washer: $100 - $125, Dishwasher: $50 - $75, Refrigerator: $50, Electric Heat Pump Water Heater: $300, Gas Storage Water Heater: $200, Residential Gas Boiler: $300, Residential Gas Furnace: $200, Weatherization: 50% of cost up to $1000.
Started 10/25/10 - funds available until exhausted. More at: http://www.dc.state-rebate.com/arra-appliance/

VA info: (just gathered this for a client in Alexandria... so there might be a few more incentives if you are in Arlington or other parts of the state.)

    • State: Virginia

      • A four-day sales tax exemption on Energy Star products of $2,500 or less per product, purchased for non-commercial home or personal use... applies to sales occurring during the four-day period that begins each year on the Friday before the second Monday in October and ends at midnight on the second Monday in October. (dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, compact fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, programmable thermostats or refrigerators that meet federal Energy Star standards. It should be noted that certain EPA "Watersense" products may also qualify.)

      • Individuals may also claim a deduction of 20%, up to $500, on their state income tax return for sales tax paid to purchase certain energy-efficient products listed on this web site.

      • Appliance Rebates – money available until exhausted – so soon probably... items more relevant for you are Clothes Washer (ENERGY STAR qualified): $75 and Refrigerator (ENERGY STAR qualified): $60. Details at: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=VA31F&re=1&ee=1

    • Local: Alexandria

    • Dominion (Utility) programs:

    • Future updated information on incentives can be found here: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?State=VA

Sat Jiwan IklĂ©-Khalsa is now “low-flow” blogging at: www.Truthful-Living.blogspot.com and is a recent green home renovator and a green building/renovation consultant . Find past articles, local green building stores, info, resources, including annotated green house renovation photos and services at: www.Truthful-Living.com or call 301.891.8891


Saturday Oct 2, 11am–5pm – Takoma Green Homes Tour – (described above) You can request or download a guide map at: www.SolarTour.org or www.Truthful-Living.com

October 2nd and 3rd, 11-5pm - 20th Annual DC Area Tour of Solar Homes and Buildings – Tour over 70 homes and sites on two days. Purchase paper guides at Summer Delights in Old Town Takoma Park, or get info and free guides online at: www.SolarTour.org

Saturday and Sunday, Oct 2-3, 11am – 5pm - Western MD Solar Homes Tour -
Tour guide/ticket are $2 each and available soon at area locations in Western Maryland (see www.SolarTour.org for details) or Contact Rich Maranto at rich@ram-digital.com or 301.371.4422

Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 – 10am – 5pm - The Capitol Hill Energy Cooperative Solar Home Tour and Fair -
Fair at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation located on East Capitol Street – just 2 blocks from the US Capitol and Supreme Court. Tickets for the solar home tour will be available at the Fair for $10 per adult (kids get in free).


  1. This is such a great article. My husband and I have been looking at green homes in Tennessee. We are so excited to be getting into this kind of lifestyle and we love to read about others who are too! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi
    Nice one! I like the outfit of the characters. Wish i could do the same thing too but im not that techie.i like the outfit of “from farmer to warden”.. really interesting.smart home