Here’s how Summit County residents can get money to save on energy costs and reduce their home emissions
Local and federal incentives, from tax credits to rebates, offer homeowners unprecedented options to move their home towards greener, cleaner energy
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct two captions that misidentified the neighborhood in which the subjects live.
Summit County homeowners could be paid more money than ever before to save on energy costs and fight climate change at the local level. That’s thanks to a slew of funding made available through local and federal incentive programs.
County homeowners, depending on their income and desired projects, could be eligible for tens of thousands of dollars over the next year to electrify their living space — which climate advocates say will lower carbon emissions and curb home energy bills.
“It’s very exciting, and we are all encouraged that this can really help us at the local level meet our climate goals, get folks engaged and help them reduce their carbon footprint and their energy costs as well,” said Jess Hoover, climate action director for the county nonprofit High Country Conservation Center.
From money for energy assessments, solar installation, heating and cooling systems and more — here’s how a variety programs will pay homeowners to go green.
Energy Smart Colorado
Founded in 2010 using federal funds, the Energy Smart Colorado program has since partnered with local governments to offer subsidies on home energy improvements to Colorado’s southern, mountain and Western Slope communities.
The conservation center administers the program in Summit County and partners with its local governments to offer up to $2,000 in rebates for projects as well as a $150 rebate for a home energy assessment. (Those benefits are not available for Silverthorne residents, however, as the town does not pay into the program).
Assessments begin at $450 for homes that are less than 2,500-square-feet and cost an additional 10 cents for every square foot above that, according to Hoover. Xcel energy also offers a rebate of up to $200 for the assessment, meaning that homeowners can bring its total cost down to about $100.
According to Hoover, the most common home needs are around air sealing and insulation.
“That’s really important in our climate because we have so many months of the year when we are heating our homes,” Hoover said, adding that without proper sealing and insulation “we are essentially paying money that is just leaking outside through gaps and cracks in our homes.”
That’s where the rebates come in. Along with insulation, the program will also help pay for the costs of boiler replacements, new heat pumps and solar installation, as well as other appliances.
The rebates, which are typically mailed to residents two to four weeks after applying, are capped at $2,000 for those making between 80% and 160% of the area median income, Hoover said. According to 2022 data from the Summit Combined Housing Authority, that translates to a yearly income of between $79,840 and $159,680 for a four-person household.
Residents making more than 160% of the median income can qualify for up to $500 in rebates, Hoover said. Residents making less than 80% may be eligible for free installations through the Colorado Affordable Energy program.
With the cost of natural gas causing home energy bills to rise higher and higher over the past year, Hoover said efficiency improvements are a long-term investment in bringing down costs.
It’s also a crucial way to help meet the county’s climate goals. According to Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Ashley Brubaker, one-third of emissions in the county come from residential buildings while almost 40% come from electricity use. The county’s climate action plan aims to reduce emissions from buildings by more than 20% by 2030 and more than 35% by 2050 while making its electrical energy 100% renewable and carbon-free by 2035.
Solarize Summit is a Summit County-specific program launched in 2019 and led by the conservation center.
By partnering with the governments of unincorporated Summit County and the towns of Breckenridge and Frisco, the program is able to offer up to $1,950 for residents looking to install solar panels on their home.
Silverthorne residents are eligible for up to $300 and Dillon residents, while not eligible for the Solarize Summit program, can receive up to $1,200 through Energy Smart for solar panels.
Solarize rebates will only be applicable for residents who buy solar panels through the energy equipment supplier Active Energies Solar, LLC. The company offers a $300 rebate while the conservation center, through the help of local government funding, provides up to $1,650 in rebates for Breckenridge and unincorporated Summit County residents and $1,500 for Frisco residents.
To receive a rebate, residents must sign up for a home assessment through the program by May 31. Rebates will be sent to residents via the mail in two to four weeks from the time of application.
Over the past four years, the average cost of solar installation for a 7.5 kilowatt system, the typical system size, was $24,800, Hoover said. But homeowners can bring that cost down to about $15,000 with the help of both local rebates and federal subsidies.
According to Hoover, more than 200 households across the county have participated in the program since 2019, collectively generating 2.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year from solar panels. Those carbon emission reductions are equivalent to removing 209 cars from the road for a year, Hoover said.
“All of our goals are measured by emissions,” said Hilary Sueoka, Frisco’s environmental programs coordinator. “Reducing energy use (and therefore emissions) from any of the Energy Smart programs or switching to renewables through the Solarize Summit program will help the town work towards our climate goals.”
Hayden van Andel, Breckenridge’s sustainable materials management coordinator, said the town is currently at 37% of its 100% renewable electricity goal for 2035. But through local partnerships and new federal aid, Andel said residents can see “real savings on their energy bills all while using less energy while improving their quality of life and built environment.”
Inflation Reduction Act
Last year, the Biden administration along with Democrats in Congress passed their marquee climate, health and tax bill — the Inflation Reduction Act.
The law contains the most funding for climate change initiatives in United States history at $370 billion over the next 10 years — the bulk of which will pay for clean energy tax credits and rebates.
That includes a 30% tax credit for solar installation, which was increased from 26%, as well as a 30% credit for home efficiency upgrades, such as new doors and windows. Homeowners will need to pay the upfront cost for those improvements before receiving the credits during tax season.
But another prong of the federal law, rebates, could provide a more immediate discount on an array of purchases.
- Up to $8,000 for a heat pump for space heating or cooling
- Up to $4,000 for a breaker box upgrade
- Up to $2,500 for electric wiring
- Up to $1,600 for insulation, air sealing and ventilation
- Up to $1,750 for a heat pump water heater
- Up to $840 for an electric stove, cooktop, oven or heat pump clothes dryer
Those rebates will be income-based and cover the cost of upgrades up to $14,000. Households making below 80% of the area median income could see full coverage for these upgrades while those making between 80 and 150% could see half.
In a statement, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse — who championed the legislation in Congress — said the incentives could save the average family $170 to $220 a year in electricity costs while adding it will “power our efforts to address the climate crisis.”
Though Congress has authorized the funding, the United States Department of Energy has yet to issue guidelines for how the money will be parsed out to buyers. States will likely facilitate the rebates and those could come by the end of this year, Hoover said.
“We’re all anxiously awaiting guidance from the Department of Energy for how it’s going to administer funding for the states,” Hoover said. “Nevertheless, there’s several thousands of dollars worth of rebate money on the table right now.”
Taken together, the federal and local incentives represent an unprecedented level of funding for electrification for homeowners, which Hoover said is “the linchpin for driving down emissions.” As the county moves forward on ambitious clean energy goals, Hoover said the time is now for homeowners to be a part of the solution.
“Unlike electricity, we can’t make natural gas cleaner and these rebates are going to be really important,” Hoover said. “We hope that it gets people really interested in electrification projects.”
There are several options for how Summit County homeowners can subsidize clean energy improvements for their home. Here’s where to find more information for each:
- For the Energy Smart Colorado program — which provides rebates on home energy assessments and improvements for Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon and unincorporated county residents — go to HighCountryConservation.org/home-energy-audits/
- For the local Solarize Summit program — which works with customers in Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne and unincorporated Summit County to offer discounts on solar panels — go to HighCountryConservation.org/solarize-summit/
- For the Inflation Reduction Act — which includes federal rebates and tax credits for clean energy home upgrades — go to RewiringAmerica.org/app/ira-calculator
- For free energy upgrades for lower-income Colorado households, go to NWCCOG.org/programs/energy-program/colorado-affordable-energy-program/
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