Get Yourself Some Stimulus Money

If you're not eligible for cash for clunkers, you can still get in on the government rebate party. How? Make your home a little greener for federal and state tax rebates.

The cash-for-clunkers program is an apparent stimulus success story that’s grabbing all the headlines. But if your clunker isn’t eligible for a rebate, how can you get in on the party? One way to get your hands on some stimulus dollars is to make your home a little “greener,” by installing energy-saving appliances or renewable energy systems like solar panels.

Buying an energy-efficient air conditioner, refrigerator, TV, dishwasher, or other appliance can earn you a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of the item, up to a maximum of $1,500. The savings don’t stop there, however; many utility companies will reimburse you for part of the cost of the appliance and some states will add their own rebates to sweeten the deal. The state rebates vary, with Florida, California, New York, and Texas offering the most generous give-backs. For a list of rebates available in your state, go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. An added benefit: any rebates that you get from the utility don’t count as taxable income on your federal tax return.

Not all appliances are eligible for a rebate and many appliance salespeople aren’t qualified to tell you which ones will get you money back, so before you start shopping, it’s important to check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star website. At the site, you can also look up any special deals being offered by manufacturers or local dealers.