In the excitement about the tax credits for energy-efficient improvements in the recent stimulus package, people have forgotten that tax credits have been offered for many years. “Tax credits have been offered in different forms. For example, in 2007, certain Energy Star-rated equipment qualified for a credit,” says Matt Dirksen of Case Design/Remodeling, in Bethesda, Md.

Remodeler Ben Thompson says in 2007, some of his clients did not know about the credits until they were prompted by a tax program. “That question would pop up and then they would call me to ask for materials invoices,” says the general manager of Thompson Remodeling, in Grand Rapids, Mich., noting that he provided documentation for five clients that year.

However, the 2009 stimulus package covers a variety of topics and is receiving coverage in newspapers and television and radio shows across the country. Manufacturers are also marketing their tax credit qualifying equipment. Also adding to the stimulus interest, Dirksen says, is the public’s heightened awareness of green issues and options. The green movement, along with the stimulus bill, which offers higher tax credit levels and requires higher efficiency levels for qualifying improvements compared with past years, Dirksen says, has created the “perfect storm” for energy-efficient home improvements.

Part of this perfect storm includes a bill recently passed by Montgomery County in Maryland. The Home Energy Loan Program (HELP) will provide a property owner with a zero-interest loan to pay for an energy audit and the recommended efficiency improvements. The owner would repay the loan through a line item on their property tax bill. If the property is sold, the new owner would continue to repay the loan through the property tax bill. “My hope is to see people jump on it,” Dirksen says. “So we can improve the efficiency of existing housing stock.”

Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen has recommended this program to Congress as part of the stimulus program for use nationwide.