Cincinnati homeowners will find that making energy efficient home improvements will not only cut their costs this winter, but can also provide a sizable break on tax bills come tax season.  Additionally, when you go to resell, those improvements will help increase your market value, as more and more people realize the value of decreased energy costs.

Thanks to the Federal government’s economic stimulus package which passed in February, consumers can receive tax credits for up to 30% of the cost to make energy-efficiency improvements to their homes, such as adding insulation or replacing windows. The maximum $1500, one time only credit, is a significant jump from the $500 offered in year's past and will be available through 2010. Both the tax and energy savings could really add up, especially considering that the average household spends $1,000 a year on heating and cooling costs, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy.

Keep in mind that you might not receive that 30% tax credit until months after a project’s completion. And in some cases, such moves may not be worth it. Knowing which products qualify for the new tax credits can also be tricky.

The four home improvements that can best help you cut your energy costs and get Uncle Sam to pick up part of the tab are:

 Adding insulation

Insulation is the cheapest home improvement that qualifies for the tax credits, says Karen Schneider, a spokeswoman for Energy Star. By installing it you could save up to 20% on your energy bills.

For the new insulation to qualify, it must meet the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (check product labeling or call the manufacturer) and carry a two year warranty.

Replacing Doors and Windows

Like insulation, you can get up to $1500, but that is only if those doors and windows meet certain criteria. For example, previous tax credits were dolled out to consumers who purchased Energy Star windows. After June 1, not every Energy Star certified window qualifies, and the ones that do adhere to stricter eligibility requirements.

Windows doors and skylights need a label from the National Federation Rating Council that says that their U factor –a measure of how well they’d keep heat from escaping is no more than 3.0. The label also needs to list a solar heat gain coefficient, or SHGCc, which measures how much of the sun’s heat penetrates into the home, of no more than 0.30.

Installing Air Conditioners

Energy Star estimates the retail price and installation of a 5 ton central air conditioner at more than $1700. That’s hardly cheap, but these systems need to be replaced only once every 10-12 years, Schneider says.

 New Roof

New metal or asphalt roofs meet Energy Star requirements to keep your home cool by reflecting the sun’s heat, especially if you live in a warm location.

Before you make any home improvements and if you want to take advantage of the tax credit, be sure the product you are purchasing meets the government’s standards.Those standards have increased, just as new Cincinnati home owner's standards have increased.