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Q My major appliances are decades old; something's going to blow soon. How do I buy one that gets energy-efficient tax credits?

A If your hot-water heater dies the day before Thanksgiving, you're not going to want to spend hours researching energy- and cost-saving appliances -- you're going to need a new one right away. It's wise to know in advance what to ask for when the time comes to buy a replacement. Major appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, boilers, and central air-conditioning units qualify for federal tax credits ranging from $150 to $300, but the models you choose have to meet minimum efficiency requirements to qualify. Visit to find out what the standards are. Then visit the EPA's Energy Star website to download information sheets that list model numbers and efficiency ratings for major appliances, as well as a list of local contractors who can install one for you. Pay attention to the efficiency rating; not all Energy Star appliances are efficient enough to qualify for the tax credit. Finally, visit the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy website for guides that will help you find not only the most efficient appliance, but also the one that best suits your family's lifestyle.

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Illustration: Mark Matcho

OnEarth. Fall 2006
Copyright 2006 by the Natural Resources Defense Council