Building energy efficiency into new or renovated homes can pay back the investment, according to Audrey Evans, an energy efficiency expert with the LSU AgCenter.
Evans, who is based in the New Orleans area and works statewide, provides information on energy efficiency to individual homeowners as well as building contractors and nonprofit agencies oriented toward affordable housing.
"We want to help people do more than restore," she said of the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and other South Louisiana areas after the 2005 hurricanes. "We want to help them build back better."
Evans calls the rebuilding and renovation efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita "an opportunity not to be missed to build back safer and stronger."
The energy specialist says builders and renovators have a host of things to consider – insulation, air quality, windows with "low-e" coatings and Energy Star-rated appliances and building components – when they work on their projects.
"We want to help people appreciate the important features and economics of energy efficiency," she said. "Structural issues are critical and shouldn’t be overlooked. And energy goes right along with that."
Evans cited a new LSU AgCenter information bulletin "Federal Tax Credits for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements in 2006-2008" as a source of important information. It’s available online through www.lsuagcenter.com. Printed copies also can be ordered through that site or obtained through parish LSU AgCenter extension offices across Louisiana.
The bulletin provides information on federal tax credits available to people who invest in energy-efficient home improvements and systems that use renewable energy sources.
The three-year federal program for tax years 2006 through 2008 provides up to $500 in tax credits for certain energy-efficient improvements. A separate credit of up to $4,000 is available for installation of various renewable-energy systems.
"These one-time tax credits apply to a taxpayer’s primary home," Evans said. "They don’t apply to rental property."
A related federal program provides a $2,000 tax credit for building a new home with certain high-performance features.
Evans said people who are rebuilding damaged homes shouldn’t ignore energy-efficient building materials and methods or the tax credits that go with them.
"Renovators with a desire for historic preservation also have a host of materials and techniques available" to meet those desires and also provide energy efficiency, she said.
For more information on building safer, stronger and smarter – or information on a variety of other topics ranging from food and health to crops and livestock, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.