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Tax Credits for Replacing Heating and Cooling Systems

The 2009-2010 $1,500 energy tax credits ended as you sang Auld Lange Syne, but you’ll get up to $500 for a more efficient heating and cooling system in 2011.

In 2010, you were able to take up to 30% of the cost, to a $1,500 max, as tax credits for an eligible heating and cooling system. If you took advantage of the credit, congratulations:

  • File IRS Form 5695 in 2011. This can be tricky, so pay attention to the details.
  • Put your feet up, because you’ve taken the feds for all they’ve got in terms of limited-amount energy credits.

If you didn’t take advantage already, you’re somewhat out of luck: The generous $1,500 program ended on Dec. 31, 2010. But at the last minute, the government added a suite of less-generous but still useful energy tax credits for heating and cooling systems and related energy-efficiency improvements.

The basics:

  • Lifetime credit max of 10% of costs, up to $500 for all energy improvements combined.
  • If you got $500 or more back during 2009-2010, you get nothing for any 2011 improvements.

Although there is a $500 overall ceiling, in 2011 some improvements have individual limits below $500:

  • $50 for any advanced main air-circulating fan.
  • $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane, or oil furnace or hot water boiler.
  • $300 for any qualified item of energy-efficient building property, as specified by the IRS In previous guidance, this category included certain approved electric and geothermal heat pumps, central air conditioning systems, and natural gas, propane, or oil water heaters.

Installations costs are generally covered.

Limits and deadlines:

  • You can’t claim more than a $500 credit for the year.
  • Save manufacture certifications and receipts in case you need them for filing.
  • You must install a relevant heating and cooling system by Dec. 31, 2011—or gamble that the feds will come through with another extension.

By mid-January the Energy Star site will be posting new guidelines on what heating and cooling systems are covered. It’s your safest bet for information on which kinds of systems and individual products get you the credit.

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