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Celebrate Earth Day with a Gift to the Planet and Your Wallet

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By Kayla O'Brien

RISMEDIA, April 22, 2009-In celebration of Earth Day and the escalating buzz around the immense stimulus package President Barack Obama signed into law in February, you might be wondering exactly if, how and when you (and the planet) will directly benefit. Rest assured, in addition to the $8,000 tax credit available to first-time home buyers who purchase a home before December 1, 2009, there are many other ways homeowners can not only save money, but also help the environment.

It’s a known fact that by simply switching from standard incandescent light bulbs to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs), Americans will produce 75% less energy on a product that will last up to 10 times longer. Homeowners can expect to save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime, and, according to Energy Star, these light bulbs produce about 75% less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.

Coupling that with the latest in energy rebates and the stimulus is a step in the right direction for homeowners looking for added motivation to do the right thing for the environment, while saving money in the long run.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is scheduled to pump over $787 billion into the American economy and of that, over $49 billion has been dedicated to energy initiatives. More than switching to CFLs or getting a reliable thermostat, energy efficiency includes everything from weatherizing low-income housing, electric vehicles, energy efficiency devices, energy efficient appliance upgrades for homeowners and small business owners, and even loan guarantees for renewable energy projects.

“The government was looking for shovel-ready solutions to get money into the economy as quickly as possible,” says Gus Ezcurra, CEO of Advanced Telemetry, a California-based company that manufacturers the EcoView smart energy and resource management system for residential and commercial applications. “Because they want to kick start alternative energy solutions in homes, there is something like $300 million provided in consumer rebates for energy-efficient product upgrades. If money is available, consumers can buy these products and at the end of the day, stimulate the economy.”

Ezcurra oversees all aspects of the company’s development and deployment of its proprietary EcoView solution-a cost-effective, small commercial and residential “smart energy management system” that enables users to easily view and reduce their resource consumption-and thus, their utility bills and carbon footprint. In addition to electricity, the EcoView touch panel and Web portal enables users to view and adjust (in real time) gas and water, as well as lighting, security, and other electronic devices such as office or home entertainment equipment-all resulting in increased awareness, control and reduction of energy usage that saves both money and environmental resources.

By upgrading everyday appliances to energy efficient models such as Energy Star, homeowners can expect a minimum of 10-15% savings on their electricity bills right away. “It pays for itself and it’s doing the right thing for the environment,” says Ezcurra.

Today, rebate funds have been re-energized with the latest economic stimulus, says Ezcurra. “Some money has already started to trickle out, but by the end of the summer, the checks will come relatively quickly.”

Homeowners interested in making the most of the stimulus need not look further than their local utility company. If your power, water and gas come from one exclusive place locally, the best way, according to Ezcurra, is to inquire about state-mandated programs that are available. Most commonly, homeowners can find what energy-efficiency rebates are available by simply calling the power company or checking their website.

Another way the stimulus money will be distributed to homeowners is by way of low-income families for the weatherization of their homes. “For example,” says Ezcurra, “If a home has old windows or doors that aren’t efficient, air may be leaking in and so the homeowner will find themselves cranking up the heat or the air conditioning. It’s one thing to give rebates for devices inside the home, but it’s a big thing to help a home be more efficient by sealing doors, increasing insulation, etc.”

“The ones who can’t afford it most are the ones wasting the most, so something like efficient windows can provide huge savings for the home,” says Ezcurra. “Even if you raise your air-conditioning temperature by just a few degrees, that’s a huge savings. ”

To take advantage of these rebates, on the state level, homeowners must simply fill out a form on the approved device and submit it with other required paperwork such as a proof of purchase, etc. Once it has been submitted, the homeowner should expect a check in a few weeks. Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, through 2010 for the following:

-Windows and doors
-Insulation
-Roofs (metal and asphalt)
-HVAC
-Water heaters (non-solar)
-Biomass stoves

When looking to upgrade, something homeowners should keep an eye out for is the Manufacturer’s Certification. This is a signed statement from the manufacturer certifying that the product or component qualifies for the tax credit. The IRS encourages manufacturers to provide these certifications on their website to facilitate identification of qualified products. Tax payers must keep a copy of the certification statement for their records, however, they do not have to submit a copy with their tax return.

While some may think the price of energy-efficient appliances may not outweigh the benefits at a time when many are pinching pennies, in many cases, says Ezcurra, they’re exactly the same price as other new appliances. “Newer appliances, in general, have implemented more efficient technologies behind it when you buy them, at no extra cost,” he says. “If you buy additional devices-beyond a new washing machine or dishwasher-the savings are dramatic. ”

Once people become more aware of their energy usage, not only will the cost savings begin, but also the road to helping the environment.

“Our [EcoView] touch panel gives you the ability to see what your entire electricity consumption is-how much money and how many kilowatts you’re spending-on the devices you have today. Someone may be spending $32 a month in electricity prior to learning this, but after turning the air conditioning off by two degrees or turning off your computer monitor when you’re not home, your bill will shrink down to something like $24 instantaneously.

“I believe people will do the right thing. People do the right thing to help situations at hand-whether their neighbor or the environment is in danger-but it’s not easy for people to do it on their own,” says Ezcurra. “The stimulus is making it easier for them to modify their behavior and help the environment-and also their financial well-being.”

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