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Originally published Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 10:02 PM

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Credits available for home improvements that save energy

Kansas City Star

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Who knew you can receive a tax credit for new garage doors?

Not Greg Titus' neighbors in Leawood, Kan.

"I haven't talked to even one person who knew about this," said Titus, who recently installed three insulated carriage-style garage doors. "You'd think stores and manufacturers would be shouting about this from the rooftops."

The tax credits created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 can be complicated, but with careful choices, consumers can reap up to 30 percent of the product costs (up to $1,500). Titus stumbled upon garage-door tax-credit information when he was planning a different home project.

He's happy he discovered it: Not only do the new doors look better than the peeling ones he had; the insulation keeps the garage much warmer.

When it comes to the energy tax credits, where can homeowners get the most bang for their buck?

Insulation.

"They're unsexy improvements, but the payback period is quick, and it keeps your home comfortable year-round," says Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor for Consumer Reports. With the tax credit, insulation starts paying back in a year. "Insulating keeps you cooler in the summer, too. With other improvements, the payback is 10 years, sometimes more."

Although the payback on windows takes awhile, a tip for saving money is having them installed in the offseason, winter, when labor costs are typically lower. "It's not like they leave your house whistling in the wind these days," Lehrman said. "Doing things that are counterintuitive can save on installation costs."

So what's the difference the tax credit can make for a furnace?

Someone can buy a 95 percent efficiency furnace for about the same price as an 80 percent one when combined with local utility rebates, says Frank Laster of Anthony Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Lenexa, Kan.

Credit available: 30 percent of the cost of the product, up to $1,500 for all improvements combined.

Timeline: Projects completed between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.

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