Claiming tax breaks for heating improvements

Claiming tax credits could allow individuals with outdated or broken home fixtures to save on replacements.

In my last post, I detailed the upcoming expiration of a federal tax credit – formally known as the nonbusiness energy property credit – that could help you get $500 back on certain home improvements. If you haven't already used the credit in the few years that it's been available, you can choose to apply it certain upgrades to your home's heating system.

However, it's important to note that the $500 tax credit is only available on certain upgrades. For instance, those who install a new gas, propane or oil hot water heater as a way of improving the functioning of their radiator,are only eligible for a $150 credit. Similarly, you can get up to $150 for installing a natural gas, propane or oil furnace.

Air source heat pumps, which are more energy-efficient than other alternatives according to EnergyStar, are eligible for up to a $300 credit. But, while getting money back on this project can be a nice thought, upfront costs may be high. Individuals who are thinking of taking advantage of this credit at so late a juncture – the credit expires at the end of the year – may only want to make these improvements if they've been considering a similar addition in the past.

If you don't want to make the big upfront investment in upgrading your home's entire heating system, you can pursue alternatives. For example, purchasing a low-cost electric heater to augment your existing system can be beneficial. By using a portable heater as a means of warming rooms to the desired temperature, you can reduce the stress you put on the system as a whole and the stress you experience when you receive your first heating bill.

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