Read the Fine Print
Only the most efficient products and systems qualify for the tax credit, and not all Energy Star–labeled products make the cut. And, with a few exceptions, the cost of labor is not included. Look for a chart that lists all the details and links to qualifying products at Energy Star
. Your tax preparer or installer can also help you determine which products fit the bill.Get an Energy Audit
You'll pay no more than a few hundred bucks, and some utility companies even provide one free. An auditor will pinpoint your home's trouble spots and crunch the numbers on fuel costs so that you'll know which upgrades will pay off. In many cases, auditors can also help you identify local rebates and incentives you're eligible for. Find an auditor through your local Home Performance with Energy Star program or the Building Performance Institute
before you buy.Stop Drafts and Seal Air Leaks
"It doesn’t make sense to spend money on upgrades if your house is leaky," says Rob Moody, a LEED instructor for the U.S. Green Building Council and consultant at Organic Think in Asheville, North Carolina. Seal gaps with weatherstripping, spray foam, or caulk. You may qualify for help through the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which has provided efficiency upgrades like sealing air leaks free of charge for some 6.2 million low-income families. To find out if you're eligible, call the program hotline at 800-363-3732.