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High-tech green
Advanced technology in renewable energy takes home improvement to another level. These systems often don't pay for themselves quickly. To create incentives for interested homeowners, the federal government is sweetening the deal. The tax credit will cover 30 percent of the cost, including installation, with no upper limit. In most cases, the window for the tax credit has been extended to 2016.

Eligible systems include solar water heaters, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and wind energy systems. Tom Silva's seizing the opportunity and putting in solar panels and a solar water heater this year. He said the tax credit is an offer his family couldn't refuse.

"My wife read about it and said, 'We've been talking about doing [solar upgrades] long enough. Let's just do it.' People worry about the money you have to put out up front, but you're getting big-ticket items like solar panels for a third less and you will save money on your energy bill forever," Silva says--not to mention the boost it gives to the value of the house.

NEXT: First, get an energy audit

Last updated May 07 2009: 12:57 PM ET
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