May 20, 2024

Don't be fooled by Appalachian Power, make your home more energy efficient > Appalachian Voice


As an Appalachian Power customer living in Southwest Virginia, it frustrates me to read headlines like “Appalachian Power Rate Requests Will Increase Bills by 35% Beginning in 2021” or “Appalachian Power Requests $95 Million, or 5.1% Increase in Revenue” and see how it will impact not only our family’s monthly budget, but also those of our friends and neighbors.

Southwest Virginia already suffers from some of the highest energy costs in the state, with people with lower incomes paying a larger percentage of their income for electricity. Inflation has made it hard for everyone, and now Appalachian Power wants people to pay more and increase its profits. Across the region, challenging conversations are playing out around dinner tables and parks, at Little League games and playgrounds, as working people discuss how to make ends meet.

To comment on Appalachian Power's latest rate increase request, submit your comments to the State Corporation Commission by September 4. While it's important for the SCC to hear from customers like you about how this rate increase will affect you and your family, in the meantime, you can soften the blow of Appalachian Power's rate increase by making a plan to improve the energy efficiency of your home and taking advantage of tax incentives currently available to you. That's exactly what I'm doing in my household.

First, if you are a low-income individual or household and need emergency assistance with your Virginia energy bill, contact the Department of Human Services to see if you qualify for various energy-related programs, such as winter heating fuel assistance, summer cooling assistance, or crisis assistance for other home energy-related emergencies. If you receive these programs, please note that they do not count as income when determining eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, public assistance, or Medicaid.

Our area also offers free low-income energy audits and efficiency programs, with priority given to seniors, people with disabilities and households with children. Check with your local provider to see if you qualify. Appalachian Power also offers discounts and energy efficiency programs for customers of all incomes.

For households that don’t need emergency assistance but are frustrated by rising energy bills and feeling the strain every month, federal incentives are also available through the Inflation Control Act, allowing you to take advantage of historic levels of tax credits to make your home more energy efficient. These tax credits can save homeowners up to $3,200 a year on their taxes.

So how can you most effectively make the most of the incentives available to you? First, contact a qualified energy professional to get an energy audit. An energy audit is an in-home evaluation where a professional runs a variety of tests to determine how much air is leaking into your home and looks at your insulation levels, appliances, HVAC equipment, lighting and other home energy, comfort and air quality issues.

An energy professional will write a report on your home and recommend ways to most effectively reduce your energy bills and improve the livability of your home. This is especially important if your home has gas or oil burning systems installed, such as a natural gas furnace or water heater, because an airtight seal can lead to unsafe indoor air quality in your home. You can claim 30% of the cost of an energy audit as a federal tax credit, up to a maximum of $150.

Graphic: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Then, proactively address the highest impact items detailed in your energy audit report: For most homes, the most cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades are to increase the amount of insulation in your attic, insulate your attic hatch, and seal with caulk or spray foam around the many areas where hot and cold air leaks from your home.

These gaps can occur where the attic wall meets the floor, around windows, around lamps, and where wires, pipes, and plumbing enter and exit the home (usually in the basement or underfloor). Installing quality weatherstripping around doors is a low-cost, easy DIY project that almost anyone can do. We've air-sealed ours and are in the process of installing additional R38 (fiberglass) attic insulation. Addressing these items first can immediately reduce your home's energy use and allow you to deduct 30% of the cost on your taxes, up to $1,200 per year.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

After air-sealing and insulating your home, the next thing you should consider is replacing your home's mechanical systems with the most energy-efficient ones. Air-source heat pumps and heat pump water heaters are costly items, but they will save you money in the long run and allow you to claim 30% of the cost (up to $2,000 per year) when filing your taxes.

At this point, your annual energy efficiency tax credit will be capped at $3,200, but you can maximize the credit by replacing your mechanical systems over several years, because the credit is valid until 2032. Additionally, replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient ones will save you a small amount of energy because they're primarily cosmetic upgrades, but they still qualify for a 30% tax credit of up to $1,200 per year.

Staging these upgrades over a period of years will help you make the most of your tax credits. Here is our plan for reducing our energy use and making the most of our tax credits: We don't plan on buying new doors or windows or replacing our relatively new heat pump air conditioner, but when we do need to replace them, we plan to buy the most energy efficient option and take advantage of the tax credits and utility discounts.


Energy Saving Upgrades

Tax Credit Rate

Maximum tax credit


Energy Audit




Airtightness, weatherstripping replacement, attic hatch insulation


First year with insulation capped at $1,200


Attic insulation (adding R38 to existing R14 insulation)


The first year limit, to allow for airtightness, is $1,200.


Heat pump water heater




Solar power generation after roof replacement


No cap

Finally, after you have reduced your energy use as much as possible, consider installing a solar power system and battery storage system at your home. These systems are eligible for a 30% tax credit through 2032, reducing to 22% in 2033 and 2034. Because these systems allow you to produce your own electricity, your price for the clean energy you produce is fixed, no matter how much Appalachian Power increases your rates. Over the life of your system, installing a solar power system at your home could save you more than $30,000 over what you would pay to the utility company.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Making your home more energy efficient by air sealing and insulating it is a great way to save money on your energy bills right away, and in most cases, it will pay for itself in just a few years. It's also a way to protect yourself from rising utility bills. Finally, as we work to ensure Appalachian utilities provide clean, affordable and reliable energy, please follow Appalachian Voices to have your say in future rate issues.


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