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FAQs for Residential Customers
Does all Energy Star equipment qualify for the Oregon Tax Credit?
Energy Star logo
No. Energy Star is a federal program that identifies equipment as more energy efficient than the federal minimum energy standards. Oregon has more stringent specifications for its tax credit program than Energy Star. The tax credit is an incentive for residents to purchase premium efficiency equipment. Not all Energy Star equipment qualifies for an Oregon tax credit, but all equipment that qualifies for a tax credit has an Energy Star label.
 
The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) maintains lists of qualifying equipment, systems and services for the Residential Energy Tax Credit program. Only items eligible at the time of purchase qualify. You must be the owner of the eligible equipment and the equipment must be new (original use must begin with you).
 
You must apply and be approved before taking the credit on your Oregon income taxes. Send your application to ODOE as soon as your appliance, heating or water heating system is installed. You can save time by applying on-line for appliances and water heaters. See the bottom of this page for more information about tax credit eligibility and the application process.

Who is eligible for the Residential Energy Tax Credit program?
Homeowners and renters are eligible for the tax credit. Landlords, builders and developers are not. You can get a tax credit only if the appliance is installed in the home you live in or in your secondary (vacation) home. The home must be in Oregon. Motor homes and recreational vehicles do not qualify. (Landlords can get a Business Energy Tax Credit for premium efficiency appliances in rental housing. Call ODOE for information.)

Can builders get a tax credit for installing qualifying products?
No. Builders cannot take the tax credit unless they are building the home for themselves. The homebuyer can apply for the tax credit if you pass on the receipts for the equipment when the home is purchased. Homebuilders may be eligible to take a Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) for renewable energy devices installed in a new home.
 
For homebuilder program details visit the Web at: http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/CONS/BUS/tax/BETC-Homebuilders.shtml
 

When do I apply for the tax credit?
Don't wait to apply. It usually takes four to six weeks to receive the certification you'll need to claim the tax credit on your income tax return. You can apply for and claim the credit for the tax year in which the appliance is purchased as long as the appliance is placed in service by April 1 of the following year.
 
For example, you can apply for and claim the tax credit on your 2010 income tax return if you buy the appliance in 2010 but don't install it until March 2011.

How do I claim the tax credit on my income tax form?
When your application for a Residential Energy Tax Credit is approved, you will receive a tax credit certification. There is a line on your tax return form for energy tax credits. You write the tax credit amount printed on your certification on the tax return form.
 
Keep your certification, a copy of your application, and proof of payment with your tax records. If your return is audited, the Oregon Department of Revenue will request copies of the information from you. You may carry forward any unused credit for up to five years.

What if I want to put solar panels on my home?
You can get a tax credit on your Oregon income taxes for adding a solar energy system to your home. Applications for the Residential Energy Tax Credit are filed after the project is completed and paid in full. Each solar technology must be installed according to minimum requirements. ODOE maintains a list of solar companies with one or more employees that understand these requirements.

How do I find a solar company/technician?
Solar companies or technicians with solar technology experience are not currently found in every community.  A good solar company will not only have experience with solar energy technologies, it will also have one or more individuals that are familiar with incentive and tax credit programs, roofing, electrical and/or plumbing, safety, performance calculations, energy conservation, sales, service and financing.
 
The following are a few places to contact for lists of solar companies:

How do I know if a solar energy system is right for me?
For those living “off-grid” with only a backup generator for power, solar energy is the cheapest and most reliable way to provide electricity.
 
For those with access to utility power, choosing solar electricity is generally done for a variety of reasons. These reasons include but are not limited to: environmental, financial, tax incentives, public relations value, and energy security.
 
Keep in mind that solar electric power is, and will be for the foreseeable future, more expensive than northwest electricity and gas prices. It is however, with the exception of very windy locations, the cheapest energy source that you can own and use to generate energy on site without pollution.
 
Start by understanding what you want to achieve. Because incentives are generally limited, meeting 100 percent of your energy needs with solar electric is rarely the most financially advantageous. The first thing you should do is find out how much energy you use. As a rough “rule of thumb” the amount of energy a solar electric system will produce in Oregon is between 1.0 and 1.4 kilo-watt-hours (kWh) for each watt of installed capacity. Thus if you use 6,000 kWh of electricity each year, a 2000-watt system will produce between 2,000 and 2,800 kWh. Current incentives will generally cover between 50 and 70 percent of this cost.  
 

How do I know solar PV will work at my home?
With any solar energy technology it is very important to conduct a quick assessment of your site to see if it is appropriate for solar. Consider the following items:
  • Little or no shading strikes the site between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • The site is in good condition (roof will not soon need to be replaced, structurally sound, unlikely to be vandalized, etc.)
  • Future nearby changes will not substantially reduce solar access (neighbors’ trees, local construction, etc.)
  • Contact your local utility and ask them to send you a copy of their interconnection agreement and net metering policy.
Most Oregonians have electric utilities that offer “annualized” net metering where surplus energy production from one month (summer) can be carried forward to future months (winter). With these systems annual energy output is the most important factor and systems should be oriented to take advantage of the summer months when more sunlight is available.
 
The ideal orientation is facing within 30 degrees of south and with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, however east- and west-facing roofs may also be acceptable. Systems should be verified by a Tax Credit Certified Technician to ensure the system will meet the minimum performance requirements. Steeper sloped roofs should be facing the Southern sky.
 
For off-grid systems without utility power, winter time energy is most important. As a result, it is important to have the collectors face south and with a slope between 30 and 50 degrees. Tracking systems may be used to enhance performance, although such systems add cost and may require future maintenance.

How long will my solar PV system last?
Solar electric systems can last for decades. The technology used in silicon modules (panels) generally come with 25-year performance warranties. The first commercially sold solar modules are still producing power today. The power electronics used to change battery voltages into utility grade power typically come with 5- to 10-year warranties.
 
Because the payback on these solar electric systems may exceed 20 years, make sure that every component is designed for quality and longevity. Don’t try to settle for low cost mounting equipment or place the system on a roof that needs to be replaced in the near future.
 
The cost of installation (or re-installation following re-roofing) can be high on even a small system.
  • Ask your technician for a written statement of how much useful delivered energy will produced by the system
  • Ask questions about component warranties and expected life