Insulation is at the cornerstone of all energy weatherization projects around the house. From cellulose insulation blown into attics to traditional fiberglass rolls in the walls, insulation keeps your home at comfortable levels of temperature. But insulation is not just a personal thing; governments heavily push weatherization in general, insulation in particular. Insulation reduces the country's overall fuel consumption. Insulation, plus the entire weatherization toolkit, is such a pressing matter of public concern that government agencies from local to federal offer quite generous subsidies in the form of rebates, grants, loans, and tax credits. When you play the game right, you can end up with what amounts to free insulation, either in whole or in part.
U.S. Department of Energy: Weatherization Funding
In March 2009, the White House announced a $5 billion direct Weatherization Assistance Program and $3 billion state weatherization program. Eligible are U.S. citizens at or below 200-percent of the poverty level as determined by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) This is about $44,000 a year for a family of four, with the amount being slightly higher for residents of Hawaii and Alaska. Preference is given to persons over 60 years old, families that have a member who is disabled, or families with children.
The value of the services you may receive is capped at $6,500 per home.
First, an energy audit with a blower-door (pressurized) test of the infiltration of outside air into your house is conducted, along with an inspection of your home's energy equipment. The only work that will be done is energy-related and most work is completed in one or two days. Roofing and siding are not included in this program.
The U.S. Department of Energy's website is a good place to start learning about some of the basics. But eventually, you will need to find your state's weatherization agency, as they are the ones that administer the program to residents.
U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program (EERE)
The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program (EERE) is a tax credit program designed to help mitigate the costs of insulating primary residences for U.S. citizens.
Under this program, you can receive up to a $1,500 tax credit or up to 30-percent of the cost of insulation or other weatherization. Other projects that touch on energy-saving, such as solar and wind, are often covered, as well.
This credit applies only to U.S. citizens and only to primary residences (i.e., not vacation homes) and only to existing homes, not new homes. Besides weatherization, this tax credit can cover small wind or solar systems or geothermal heat pumps. Through 2019, credits apply to home solar energy systems, including solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems (30-percent of the cost, decreasing for the next two years before expiring on December 31, 2021).
Begin with the EERE FAQ page on the U.S. Department of Energy website.
U.S. State and Local Insulation Subsidies
A complex network of subsidies, grants, loans, and even products provided directly to homes makes up the rest. These range from the city level to the state level.
The value can vary. Sometimes, low- or zero-interest loans are offered. In other instances, free insulation or energy-saving lightbulbs are provided directly to low-income households. Or some power companies may offer a small rebate when the consumer purchases an EnergyStar appliance.
Typically these subsidies apply only to residents of that state or city, or customers within a power company's service area. In some cases, the programs may apply only to low-income households. One example of a monthly low income is in the Puget Sound Energy (Washington State) service area: $1,458 for a family of two, $2,208 for a family of four. Several power companies offer low or even zero-interest loans. As another example, Tacoma Power is one such company that offers zero-interest loans. Some power companies, usually working in conjunction with community agencies, will provide free insulation. One example of this is the Puget Sound Energy's Free Home Insulation Program for low-income households.
A highly valuable database maintained by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center called DSIRE keeps track of all of these incentives, in the form of insulation grants, subsidies, and loans available from states and municipalities, as well as power companies.