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Going Green for Less

Author: Sonja O'Claire, Built Green Program Manager

Upfront cost tends to be one of the main barriers that prevents homeowners and builders alike from choosing to certify their project Built Green.

Rooftop of modern housing building

While energy and water efficiency improvements have a positive return and relatively short payback period, because they cannot be seen or admired, they are not as alluring as a new kitchen or addition. Combine that with tight remodeling or construction budgets any additional costs for energy improvements or third-party verification are quickly cut from the budget. However, there are a wide variety of local incentive programs that are already available to Washington property owners to help reduce those costs. With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and its investment in carbon emissions reducing improvement projects, there is now more money than ever before available to go green.   

The challenge is that the information about all the financial incentives are scattered across many different agencies. For those who are looking to achieve Built Green certification, cost effectively, and enhance their home’s value and indoor air quality, we have compiled the most relevant financial resources to assist homeowners and builders to create high performing, energy efficient, and responsibly built homes.

Financial Incentives for New Construction

For new construction and builders of single and multifamily projects, the IRA increased and extended the value of the 45L tax credit. To qualify for Energy Efficient Home Credit, the contractor must certify each unit through the Energy Star Residential New Construction or DOE Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) programs. Neither of these programs require full Net Zero Energy performance, but still offer significant benefits and savings to the homeowner over the life of the home. The 2021 Washington state energy code is so advanced that with some additional research in the latest building science, achieving these certifications would not represent a significant liability. Built Green certification already provides access to local permitting and development green building incentives and requires or provides credits for many of the same things as the national programs, so you can maximize available incentives by combining Built Green certification with a 45L tax credit.

45L Tax Credit Amount

Required National Certification

BG Equivalent Energy Performance*

$2,500/unit

Single Family Energy Star, or Multifamily Energy Star with prevailing wage

4-star

$5,000/unit

Single Family DOE-ZERH, or Multifamily DOE-ZERH with prevailing wage

5-star

$500/unit

Multifamily Energy Star

4-star

$1,000/unit

Multifamily DOE-ZERH

5-star

*National programs may require specific prescriptive requirements that Built Green does not. Built Green certification cannot be substituted for 45L tax credit program requirements.

Contractors or new home homebuyers, planning to meet the Washington state’s energy code, reduce utility bills, or achieve Net Zero Energy certification by installing an on-site energy generation systems (e.g., solar photovoltaic (PV) panels), can benefit from the expanded Residential Energy Tax Credit. Builders or homeowners can claim up to 30% of the cost of installing an on-site energy generation system, electrical panel and wiring upgrades, and battery storage as a tax credit. The credit may only be claimed once per property. If the system is included in a newly built home the builder and the buyer can negotiate who will receive the tax credit benefit during the sales process. If the builder or homebuyer can’t use the full amount of the credit, because of the tax liability limit, they can carry the unused portion of the credit to the next year’s tax filing.

In 2022 Seattle Public Utilities established the Deconstruction Incentive Pilot Project Program. The program offers builders up to $4,000 and early access to the site to use deconstruction, instead of demolition, when completing removing an existing house or duplex.

Changing floorplans, designs, technologies, and standard practices in homebuilding can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor that adds even more risk for contractors’ bottom lines. To adapt to the changes in the code and green building requirements, builders can explore their eligibility for a tax credit for Increasing Research Activities that applies to qualified research expenses of up to $65,000. Qualified research activities may include evaluation of engineering and construction methods for improvement in build time or overall performance and reliability, testing and validation of new mechanical systems to solve technical uncertainties, green building initiatives, and development of new MEP designs and systems. Builders must prove that the qualified activities lead to a new or improved product or process, is based on hard science, they have taken on the financial risk from the activity, and it was conducted in an experimental nature. Documentation for this tax credit is extensive so a certified professional accountant should be consulted to determine eligibility.

Using HUD’s FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage program (EEM) program can give additional benefit to single-family builders. New construction homes can be appraised at a higher value, while borrowers only need to be qualified for the loan amount used to purchase the home, and not the energy efficiency or solar PV system upgrades above the established residential building code. This program offers builders thousands of dollars of additional appraisal value and expands the pool of qualified buyers for their homes. Additionally for multifamily builders, Fannie Mae Green Mortgage products offer a host of benefits, including reduced interest rates, free energy audit, and up to 5% more loan proceeds. For more details on private lending options for green new home construction, see the Private Green Financing Programs later in this article.

Dwell 5-Star Net Zero Homes

Financial Incentives for Remodels

Federal Funding

For existing homes and homeowners, the IRA provides up to $14,000 in point of sale discounts and over $4,000 in tax credits for energy efficiency and electrification upgrades. The types of incentives you can access are determined by household income. Low- and moderate-income households, those at 150% Area Median Income (AMI) or less, are eligible for up to $14,000 in up-front discounts to cover 50-100% of the cost of the electrification updates. Higher income households do not qualify for up-front discounts but may still utilize the expanded 25C and 25D tax credits provided by the IRA. This includes installing heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, electric stoves, rooftop solar and more that are outlined in the table below.

Item

Amount

Timeline

Household Income AMI

150% or less

More than 150%

Point of Sale Discounts  1

Electric Panel

 $  4,000

Early 2024

x

Electric Stove

 $     840

Early 2024

x

Electric Wiring

 $  2,500

Early 2024

x

Heat Pump Water Heater

 $  1,750

Early 2024

x

Heat Pump Air Conditioner/Heater

 $  8,000

Early 2024

x

Heat Pump Clothes Dryer

 $     840

Early 2024

x

Weatherization/Insulation

 $  1,600

Early 2024

x

Efficiency Rebates

 $  8,000

Early 2024

x

x

 

Home Energy Audit

30% of cost up to $150

Available Now!

x

x

Tax Credits (25C and D)  2

Battery Storage Installation

30% of cost

Available Now!

x

x

Geothermal Heating Installation

30% of cost

Available Now!

x

x

Electric Panel

 $     600

Available Now!

x

x

New Electric Vehicle

 $  7,500

Available Now!

x

Used Electric Vehicle

 $  4,000

Available Now!

x

Heat Pump Air Conditioner/Heater

 $  2,000

Available Now!

x

x

Heat Pump Water Heater

 $  2,000

Available Now!

x

x

Rooftop Solar Installation3

30% of cost

Available Now!

x

x

Weatherization/ Insulation

 $  1,200/ yr

Available Now!

x

x

Electric Vehicle Charger

 $  1,000

Available Now!

x

Table 1: IRA provided instant discounts and tax credits
1The IRA Electrification Point of Sale Discounts will be implemented and distributed through various state agencies and local utility providers. Per the WA Department of Commerce’s website, “The US Department of Energy is expected to release funds to states in summer 2023. Rebates will be available in early 2024.”
2Rebates offered by local utility providers are subtracted from your system costs before you calculate your tax credit
3Some solar roofing tiles and shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and shingles may qualify the cost of a whole roof replacement for the credit, excludes a roof's decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function.

Please note for all federal tax credits, they are nonrefundable tax credits. Which means you will not get a tax refund for the full amount of the tax credit if it exceeds your annual tax liability. Homeowners may get a tax refund at the end of the year due to the tax credit, if the reduction in tax liability means there was overpayment during the year. This can often occur when employers deduct taxes for employees over the course of the year. However, such refund is still limited by the taxpayer’s total tax liability. However, you can carry over any unused amount of tax credit to the next tax year.

Local Discount and Rebate Programs

In addition to the federal 25D tax credit, for up to 30% of the cost of a solar system and batteries, since 2019 all solar energy systems, up to 100kW, are 100% exempt from Washington state sales tax. There are also loan products specifically available to incentivize solar installation projects, see the Private Green Financing Programs later in this article.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) customers have access to numerous rebates for energy and water efficiency upgrades. Rebates are available to homeowners, and multifamily property owners, for energy efficient appliances, space heating, water heating, insulation, lighting, and windows. There are also incentives for new construction and manufactured homes. Currently, PSE does not offer rebates for homes converting from natural gas space heating to electric heat pump; please see the federal funding (above), Community Energy Challenge, and Energy Smart Eastside for other applicable incentives for space heating electrification.

Energy Smart Eastside program offers homeowners and building owners education and program exclusive point-of-sale discounts up to $2,000 for installing heat pump systems for space heating and cooling.

Seattle City Light offers rebates and incentives for homeowners, rental property owners and renters to save energy and generate electricity. Rebates are focused on heat pump space and water heaters, oil to electric heating conversions, and energy efficient washers and dryers.

SnoPUD customers can take advantage of rebates on up to $2,500 on heat pump installation, $500 towards a heat pump water heater, up to $1/sq.ft. on weatherization improvements, as well as discounts on smart thermostats, EV chargers, and energy efficient washers and dryers.

Tacoma Public Utilities customers may qualify for numerous rebates on energy efficiency upgrades; such as $500-$1500 for heat pump systems and insulation installations, $50-100 off per window, $450 for duct sealing, and 60% of cost for LED lighting conversions. Additionally, to the discounts, they offer a seven-year, zero-interest loans for any of the following energy-efficiency projects: Heat pump installation, window replacements and insulation upgrades.

Community Energy Challenge rebates are available to homeowners throughout Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island Counties regardless of income level, if their home’s build date is prior to 1990. Projects must complete a Home Energy Audit and then may receive rebates on energy and water saving upgrades, like heat pumps. CEC rebates may be combined with utility incentives. They offer discounted energy audits to low- and moderate-income households.

Energize Olympia is a ductless heat pumps (DHP) group purchase campaign designed and supported by a partnership between the City of Olympia, South Puget Sound Habitat for Humanity, and Spark Northwest. Energize Olympia will launch in Spring 2023. More information will be available here soon!

Saving Water Partnership provides educational resources and rebates to conserve water for single and multifamily property owners that are served by their partner utilities in King and Snohomish Counties. You can receive $100 per qualifying low-flow toilet and Water Sense sprinkler timer

Haberzetle 4-Star West Seattle Townhomes

Putting it All Together

Below are tables that compile all the above financial incentives that correspond with the energy and water efficiency improvements potentially necessary to achieve a Built Green Remodel or Retrofit certification and additional Energy labels. Incentive amounts are also broken down by the qualifying household income AMI.

Remodel or Efficiency Retrofit Certification Rebates

Source

Item

Type

Timeline

Household Income AMI

80% or less

80-150%

150% or more

IRA

Home Energy Audit/ Blower Door testing

Tax Credit

Available now

30% of cost, up to $150

30% of cost, up to $150

30% of cost, up to $150

IRA

Weatherization

Tax Credit2

Available now

$1200/yr

$1200/yr

$1200/yr

IRA

Weatherization

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

100% of cost, up to $1600

50% of cost, up to $1600

N/A

Local Utilities3

Air sealing/ Insulation

Rebate

Available now

$1.30-1.50/SF

$0.10-1.00/SF

 

$0.10-1.00/SF

 

Local Utilities3

Duct sealing/ Insulation

Rebate

Available now

Up to $900

Up to $400

 

Up to $400

 

Local Utilities3

Windows and Patio Doors

Rebate

Available now

$50-100/per, up to $1,500

$50-100/per, up to $1,500

$50-100/per, up to $1,500

PSE

Weatherization Bundle bonus

Rebate

Available now

$350-500

$350-500

 

$350-500

 

IRA

Heat Pump HVAC

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

100% of cost, up to $8,000

50% of cost, up to $8,000

N/A

IRA

Heat Pump HVAC2

Tax Credit

Available now

30% of costs, up to $2,000/yr

30% of costs, up to $2,000/yr

30% of costs, up to $2,000/yr

Energy Smart Eastside

Heat Pump HVAC

Point-of-Sale Discount

Available now

$2,000

$2,000

$2,000

Local Utilities3

Electric resistance to Heat Pump HVAC

Rebate

Available now

$1,500-2,500

$1,500-2,500

$1,500-2,500

IRA

Heat Pump Water Heater

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

100% of cost, up to $1,750

50% of cost, up to $1,750

N/A

IRA

Heat Pump Water Heater2

Tax Credit

Available now

30% of cost, up to $2,000/yr

30% of cost, up to $2,000/yr

30% of costs, up to $2,000/yr

Local Utilities3

Heat Pump Water Heater

Point-of-Sale Discount + Rebate

Available now

$700

$500

$500

PSE

LED Lighting (select fixtures)

Point-of-Sale Discount

Available now

Up to $60

Up to $60

Up to $60

IRA

Energy Star Appliances

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

100% of cost, up to $840

50% of cost, up to $840

N/A

Local Utilities3

Energy Star Washer/Dryer

Rebate

Available now

$35-250 per appliance

$35-250 per appliance

$35-250 per appliance

IRA

Induction Stove

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

100% of cost, up to $840

50% of cost, up to $840

N/A

Saving Water Partnership

Toilet Replacement

Rebate

Available now

$100-200

$100-200

$100-200

Saving Water Partnership

Sprinkler Timer Replacement

Rebate

Available now

Up to $100

Up to $100

Up to $100

Table 2: Available Financial incentives related to requirements to achieve Built Green Remodel or Retrofit certifications
1IRA Electrification Point of Sale Discounts are capped at $14,000 per household. These discounts will be implemented differently in each state, so we cannot guarantee final amounts, eligibility, or timeline
225C Tax credit for heat pumps and heat pump water heaters is capped at $2,000 per year and Weatherization is capped at $1,200 per year. These credits reset each tax year to be available for additional projects.
3Local utility providers administer their own discounts, for brevity we did not list all of them individually, please check your individual utility provider for full details and requirements. Figures in this table were pulled from PSE, SnoPUD, and Seattle City Light rebate programs.
4Rebates offered by local utility providers are subtracted from your system costs before you calculate your tax credit

Zero Carbon Emissions Label Rebates

Source

Item

Type

Timeline

Amount

Income Qualified

IRA

Electric Panel Upgrade

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

50-100% of cost up to $4,000

Yes

IRA

Electric Panel Upgrade for Heat Pumps

Tax Credit

Available now

$600

N/A

IRA

Electric Wiring Upgrades

Point-of-Sale Discount

Early 2024

50-100% of cost up to $2,500

Yes

IRA

Electric Vehicle Charger

Tax Credit

Available now

$1,000

N/A

 

Net Zero Energy Label Rebates

Source

Item

Type

Timeline

Amount

Income Qualified

IRA

Rooftop Solar4

Tax Credit

Available Now

30% of cost

N/A

IRA

Electric Panel Upgrade

Point-of-Sale Discount1

Early 2024

50-100% of cost up to $4,000

Yes

IRA

Electric Panel Upgrade for Rooftop Solar

Tax Credit

Available now

$30% of cost

N/A

IRA

Electric Wiring Upgrades

Point-of-Sale Discount

Early 2024

50-100% of cost up to $2,500

Yes

IRA

Electric Vehicle Charger

Tax Credit

Available now

$1,000

N/A

IRA

Energy Efficiency (Modeled energy reduction of 15-35%)

Rebate2

Early 2024

50-80% of cost up to $8,000

Yes

Tables 3 & 4: Available financial incentives related to requirements to achieve Built Green Remodel or Retrofit certifications with additional Energy labels.
1IRA Electrification Point of Sale Discounts are capped at $14,000 per household. These discounts will be implemented differently in each state, so we cannot guarantee final amounts, eligibility, or timeline.
2Energy Efficiency Rebate cannot be combined with the Electrification Discounts for the same single upgrade, but the two programs can be stacked for different upgrades within the same project.
3Rebates offered by local utility providers are subtracted from your system costs before you calculate your tax credit
4Some solar roofing tiles and shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and shingles may qualify the cost of a whole roof replacement for the credit, excludes a roof's decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function.

Martha Rose 5-Star Sedro-Woolley Live-Work Cabins

Closing the Gap

While there is more money available through rebates and tax credits, they are not going to cover any project 100%. Many households will need additional financial support to complete their home improvements. Below are additional financial resources to help close the gap on the costs of home and energy efficiency improvements.

Income Qualified Programs

There are programs that are exclusively for low-income qualified individuals and households. The WA Department of Commerce has a program called the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP makes energy assistance grants to energy providers on behalf of eligible households. They can also help repair or replace unsafe, dysfunctional, and inoperative heating or cooling systems in some situations.

City of Seattle’s HomeWise Weatherization Program provides free energy efficiency improvements to qualified homeowners and renters. Qualifying projects could include home energy audits, insulation, air sealing, and energy efficient replacements for furnaces, hot water heaters, kitchen and bathroom fans, and refrigerators.

Sound Generations provides a minor home repair program for homeowners with disabilities, elderly homeowners, and low-income families. Through a partnership with Seattle Public Utilities, qualified households can receive one free water efficient toilet, including installation.

City of Bellevue offers deferred payment, zero interest, loans and emergency grants for hot water and furnace replacements up to $7,000. Tacoma Power also has a deferred loan program for households with 80% of AMI or less.

Energy Smart Eastside offers households below 80% AMI up to 100% of installation costs for heat pump systems. Puget Sound Energy also its Efficiency Boost program that increases the rebates they already provide, some of these are reflected in Table 2 of this article.

Community Energy Challenge provides discounted home energy audits and additional rebates, averaging 45% of the cost, for income qualified households (90% AMI or less) for energy efficiency upgrades.

Private Green Financing Programs

There are also multiple green lending programs that are available from national and local institutions. There are two types of incentive programs, mortgage-based and construction loan based. National programs may be available through a wider variety of lenders and have larger funding pools, than local programs. Some of the programs do require work to be completed within a set number of months, so they might not be appropriate for people who want to take their time remodeling their house.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) FHA Energy Efficient Mortgage program (EEM) permits the borrower's qualifying ratios to be "stretched" by two percentage points above the standard limits. This stretch recognizes the energy savings from above-code energy efficiency and solar PV upgrades and allows a borrower to qualify for a higher loan amount. For new construction this means builders receive thousands of dollars in higher appraisal values and a larger pool of qualified buyers. Homebuyers can also qualify for a higher mortgage amount to finance cost-effective, energy efficient improvements to an existing property at the time of purchase or refinancing.

Freddie Mac GreenCHOICE Mortgage can help homeowners save money by allowing them to finance energy efficiency improvements through a “no-cash out” mortgage. The GreenCHOICE products are available to current homeowners or to homebuyers that want to include the costs of energy retrofits into their mortgage, rather than use a standard higher interest construction loan product.

Additionally for multifamily builders, Fannie Mae Green Mortgage products requires multi-family projects to achieve a recognized green building certification in exchange for a host of benefits, including reduced interest rates, free energy audit, and up to 5% more loan proceeds.

To qualify for these national programs a third-party energy rater (e.g., a Built Green Verifier with a HERS or BPI certification) must conduct a home energy assessment, and must demonstrate that the energy or water efficiency improvements are cost effective through a life cycle cost analysis. Qualified energy assessments are listed on their websites. If you are interested in using one of the national lending programs, your Built Green verifier can provide the energy assessment and the Life Cycle Cost (LCC) analysis that will needed to be provided for financing approval.

Local independent banks offering construction loan-based programs, such as OlyFed and Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union (PSCCU), support local economies, offer a more boutique experience, and have a better understanding of their local markets.

The OlyFed’s Green Choice Lending Program provides loans for up to $724,999. Borrowers who certify with Built Green or HERS can borrow up to 85% of the mortgage without private mortgage insurance and qualify for a reduction on loan fees. This offers flexibility to budgets and thousands of dollars in fee reductions. You can use this money for energy efficiency retrofits specified on their website. Qualified borrowers looking to use the equity in their home can borrow up to 90% of home value and have their loan fee waived with low closing costs and reduced interest rate.

PSCCU’s Energy-Smart Loans have many specific options for green loans, including some with on-bill repayment. In Washington state they offer programs that are specific to Avista, WA, North Puget Sound counties, Repower, and solar. Please see their website for more details of each program.


There is a lot to consider when you start to consider how you want to invest your energy and resources into making improvements on your home. The best first step you can take is to schedule a consultation with a Built Green Verifier to discuss your project. Take advantage of the 25C tax credit to offset the cost of a Home Energy Audit to establish a baseline and plan for your home’s Built Green Remodel or Retrofit.

Disclaimer:

This list is not exhaustive of all the financial resources available for home improvement and may change over time. For a complete list that can be filtered by your zip code, project type, and program type please refer to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

The information provided here does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance. It should not be used as the only source of information when making decisions regarding design, purchasing, investments, or the tax implications of new home construction, or when executing other binding agreements.  In the event that there is conflict between information provided on this webpage and guidance or notices published by IRS, utility providers, Washington Department of Commerce, or an incentive program, the information published by those entities shall take precedence.

Further Resources

Interactive tool from The White House on which programs are available for which projects

NW Ecobuilding Guild IRA Summary

IRA savings calculator and downloadable guide from Rewiring America
Rewiring America IRA Fact Sheet

IRS Fact Sheet

Energy Star Tax Credits for Homeowners

WA Department of Commerce IRA Federal Funding for Buildings

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)

Energy Efficient Mortgages

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