Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hooray for tax day

While most people loathe tax day, we couldn't wait to file our taxes this year. That's because we were due to receive tax credits from the government for some of the green features we incorporated into our new house.

I will say that there weren't as many tax credits as I would have initially imagined, because many of the high-efficiency items we installed in the house only earn tax credits when they're installed in currently existing homes, not in new builds. Also, many of the tax incentives that are being earned from our house go directly to the builders, not to the homeowners (so there are great benefits to builders who build high-efficiency homes!).

But there were two major things we did earn credit for: our solar hot water heater and our Energy Star appliances. The solar hot water heater earned us the most: from the federal government we received 30% of the cost of the heater, and from the state we earned an additional $1,400, for a total of about $4,400.

By installing all Energy Star appliances, we also earned about $300 back from Oregon (but no federal tax credit).

Of course, the tax credits are not the reason we chose these green features. But they are a nice added benefit!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Oregon recognizes Passive House standard

The Oregon Passive House community has been buzzing this week about an exciting new development in the state: the Oregon Reach Code Committee adopting a standard recognizing Passive House construction.

It took me awhile to figure out what this meant. Basically, the committee is charged with drafting Oregon's optional set of statewide construction standards for energy efficiency that exceed the requirements of the state's mandatory building codes. Builders who follow the Reach Code are following an optional "green" path for construction.

The committee adopted an amendment to the Reach Code that allows certified Passive Houses to meet the state's energy compliance standard for commercial buildings, and they say they hope to add residential buildings in the near future.

I know, it's still a bit hard to understand if you're not in the construction/building field. But suffice it to say this is a very exciting development in getting Passive Houses more widely recognized as an energy efficient building option and hopefully in spreading the popularity of the standard. According to one article I read, this development could also pave the way for Passive Houses in Oregon to capitalize on green-building incentives -- a very exciting possibility, since it would encourage more people to build Passive Houses if they can get incentives from the state in return.

One of the best articles I read about this news was from Sustainable Business Oregon:

There also was an article on Green Building Advisor, a well-respected green building website:

I'm happy to say that we played a small part in this new Oregon standard. A group of Oregon Building Code Division officials visited and toured our home back in early February, which may have helped spur more discussions. Our house was also presented and discussed at Reach Code meetings. We're glad to know that our story of how comfortable we've been in our home and how much energy we have saved helped influence this positive outcome.