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Solar Calculators

Here are some great solar tools. How many panels are likely to fit on your roof? Given your electricity bill and usage pattern, which system size will be the best for you? Use our calculators and learn about the potential benefits of solar for your circumstance. Feel free to give feedback so we can continuously improve these tools. Happy researching.

Certified Residential Windows Doors and Skylights #energy #efficiency,energy #efficient,energy #efficient #appliances,energy #efficient #homes, #energy #efficient #buildings, #energy #star, #tax #credit, #portfolio #manager,windows,,rebates,led,energy #star #appliances,environment, #energy #savings,emissions, #greenhouse #gas,bills, #save #money,climate #change,tax,certified #buildings,certified #homes,certified #products,most #efficient,energy #audit,ask #the #expert,my #energy #star,home #advisor,partner #of #the #year,little #blue #label,resource,energy #efficient #windows,best #replacement #windows,energy #star #window,energy #star #door


Residential Windows, Doors and Skylights

Current Specification Effective Date: January 1, 2015

  • The current criteria were finalized in January 2014.
  • New performance levels (PDF, 238.86 KB) are effective as of January 1, 2016 for windows, doors, and skylights in all climate zones.
  • Windows, doors and skylights must meet U-Factor and, where applicable, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) requirements based on climate zone. In addition, doors must meet U-Factor and, where applicable, SHGC requirements based on glazing level (amount of glass).
  • Windows, doors and skylights originally qualified for the ENERGY STAR label in March, 1998.

What should I look for when buying windows, doors skylights?

Every ENERGY STAR window, door and skylight is independently certified and verified to perform at levels that meet or exceed energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. EPA. But how do you know which windows work in your climate? The following tips will help you buy with confidence.

Purchasing Tips

Shopping for new windows, doors, and skylights can be a confusing process. ENERGY STAR makes it simple! Follow these five tips to ensure your windows, doors, and skylights deliver savings and comfort you’ll enjoy.

Look for the ENERGY STAR label for your climate zone. All ENERGY STAR certified products must display the ENERGY STAR label. Check the label to make sure the product you are considering is certified to meet the criteria for your area. The ENERGY STAR label appears on the product next to the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label:

in Highlighted Regions

Official ENERGY STAR label (and NFRC Label) for a window qualifying in the Northern and North-Central climate zones.

in All 50 States

Ask for ENERGY STAR when ordering. When you’re ordering in a showroom, make sure to ask for a product that is certified to meet the ENERGY STAR criteria for your climate zone. You can choose ENERGY STAR certified windows in a variety of framing materials to suit your needs.

  • Get a deal. In addition to the long-term energy savings you’ll enjoy, you may be able to take advantage of financial incentives that lower your initial investment:
    • Many utilities provide financial incentives for purchasing ENERGY STAR certified windows, doors and skylights. Look for local rebates and other promotions in your area .
    • Claim federal tax credits for installing ENERGY STAR certified windows, doors or skylights or making certain other energy efficiency improvements to your home.
    • Keep in mind that the cost of complete window replacement can vary. Be sure to get quotes from several installers. Different dealers may quote difference prices for the same product. When interviewing contractors, ask them to break down the price quote by labor and materials. ENERGY STAR certified windows, doors and skylights may cost more than non-certified products, but the labor involved should be comparable for both.
    • If your house is older than 1978, be sure to look for contractors who are certified to handle lead paint .

  • Congress Votes to Derail State-Sponsored IRA Savings Plans – Consumer Reports #state #ira, #state-sponsored #ira, #individual #retirement #plan, #savings, #department #of #labor


    Congress Votes to Derail State-Sponsored IRA Savings Plans

    The Senate voted Wednesday evening to undo Obama-era rules for state-sponsored retirement plans that could help millions of Americans who work for small businesses save for their futures.

    The House already approved the measure, which now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

    “The bill’s passage is not the end for state retirement plans, but it’s likely to slow their development,” says Diane Oakley, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), a nonpartisan group in Washington, D.C.

    States and cities last year were encouraged to set up auto-IRA programs for small-business workers who lacked employer savings plans. These plans operated similarly to 401(k) plans—allowing employees to automatically transfer money to an IRA through a payroll deduction.

    To speed their adoption, the Labor Department issued rules clarifying that these auto-IRA programs would not be subject to the more onerous regulations governing 401(k) retirement plans.

    But in February two Republican congressmen introduced a pair of bills aimed at rolling back the rules. One bill that targeted the city-sponsored plans has already been passed by Congress and signed by Trump. On Wednesday, in a 50-49 vote, the Senate passed a bill that undoes the rule for state-sponsored plans.

    Federal rules already allow states to set up auto-IRA plans, but the Labor Department had provided added assurance that these programs would not run into regulatory hurdles.

    “It’s likely that there will have to be a court case to further clarify the rules for state plans,” says John Scott, director of retirement savings at Pew Charitable Trusts.

    More than 30 states are in various stages of developing auto-IRA programs, according to the AARP. Seven states have already passed legislation to set up these plans, including Washington and Oregon, which are scheduled to roll out their programs later this year, and California, which is aiming for 2018. All three will move forward with those plans, according to statements from the state treasurers.

    But for plans not already underway, the regulatory uncertainty may deter some states from launching programs, Scott says. That would make the challenge of retirement savings more daunting.

    Only about half of U.S. private sector workers are covered by a 401(k) or similar retirement plan. The rest, some 55 million Americans, lack access to a workplace program, which are most likely to be offered by larger employers. Those who are left out tend to be low-income and minority workers.

    Given that savings gap, it’s not surprising that state and local savings plans have had wide bipartisan support. Some 75 percent of Americans agree that state savings plans are a good idea, according to a recent survey by NIRS, including 83 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Republicans.

    But some Republicans have been opposed to establishing these auto-IRA programs. In an earlier statement, Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. who sponsored the bill to block state plans, and Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla. who sponsored the bill targeting city plans, argued:

    “This last-minute regulatory loophole created by the previous administration would lead to harmful consequences for workers and employers. Hardworking Americans would be forced into government-run plans with fewer protections and less control over their hard-earned savings.”

    Still, an auto-IRA plan, like a 401(k) plan, would be voluntary—workers could always opt out. But that automatic nudge from an employer plan is crucial to making savings happen. Some 90 percent of those with a workplace plan save, vs. just 20 percent without one, according to data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

    The state auto-IRA plans, moreover, would use private investment firms to manage money. The Oregon plan, for one, has hired State Street Global Advisors to run low-cost index funds, which are also featured in many 401(k) plans.

    Perhaps the biggest limitation of state programs is that they would create a patchwork quilt of plans. A single national auto-IRA plan would be more efficient, a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found. A federal auto-IRA was first proposed in Congress in 2006, but despite a bipartisan push, it never gained traction.

    Even if state auto-IRAs regain momentum, making retirement saving happen is mainly up to you. So if you lack a workplace plan, set up your own. In 2017 you can put up to $5,500 of earned income into an IRA; up to $6,500 if you’re 50 or older.

    Depending on your income and whether you have an employer plan, you may get a tax deduction on your contributions to a traditional IRA. Your money will grow tax-free, but withdrawals will be taxable .

    By contrast, with a Roth IRA, you contribute after-tax money, which grows tax free. (The ability to contribute to a Roth phases out for singles with incomes of $118,000 and higher, and $186,000 for married couples filing jointly.) “If you’re expecting to be in a higher tax bracket at retirement, a Roth may be the better option,” says Andrew Sloan, a fee-only certified financial planner in Louisville, Ky.

    If you aren’t sure about your future tax bracket, it may make sense to split your contributions between traditional and Roth IRA. “In retirement, the more tax flexibility you have, the better,” Sloan says.

    Dental Insurance & Savings Plans for Individuals & Families #dental #discount #plans, #dental #savings #plans, #dental #care #plans, #dental #insurance #plans, #dental #insurance #options, #dental #insurance #alternatives,


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    What are
    Dental Savings Plans?

    Savings plans are NOT insurance and the savings will vary by provider, plan and zip code. These plans are not considered to be qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act. Please consult with the respective plan detail page for additional plan terms. The discounts are available through participating healthcare providers only. To check that your provider participates, visit our website or call us. Since there is no paperwork or reimbursement, you must pay for the service at the time it’s provided. You will receive the discount off the provider’s usual and customary fees when you pay. We encourage you to check with your participating provider prior to beginning treatment.

    The pros and cons of annuities – CBS News #pros #and #cons #of #savings #accounts


    The pros and cons of annuities

    After covering the basics of annuities. it’s time to address specifically the pros and cons of these tax-deferred retirement savings vehicles.

    Guaranteed income for life is a big time benefit, but it comes at a cost. The first concern is that you are giving up access to your money in exchange for the income stream. For this reason, if you are going to invest in an immediate annuity, it would be prudent to do so with only a portion of your total portfolio. As you age, access to money becomes more important, so this is a significant concern. Many retirees like to use an annuity to cover their fixed costs, and describe it as similar to having a salary to meet regular expenses.

    Additionally, most immediate annuities provide for fixed payments, which are not adjusted for inflation. Although we are in a low inflation environment today, who knows whether prices will rise substantially during the payout period of your annuity? Finally, an investment in an immediate annuity is an investment in the company that issues it. The guaranteed stream of income is only as good as the financial stability of the insurance company that writes the contract. As we all learned during the recent crisis, insurance companies can run into big problems.

    Although there are different flavors of deferred annuities (fixed, variable, equity index), they all share two distinct phases: the accumulation phase, during which your money grows on a tax-deferred basis; and the payout phase, during which you begin to receive scheduled payments. Deferred annuities share the same lack of liquidity as immediate annuities, but there are other, more worrisome downsides to these contracts.

    Insurance agents often extol the tax advantages of deferred annuities, but there are three big issues surrounding their taxation.

    1. When you start withdrawing money from the annuity, earnings (but not principal) will be taxed at your ordinary income rate, rather than at the lower capital gains rates applied to investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other non-tax-deferred vehicles in which funds are held for more than one year. Investing in a deferred annuity means that you may be converting capital gains into ordinary income, which can add up to big tax payments, especially for those in high tax brackets.

    2. Many financial advisers or insurance agents recommend variable or equity-index annuities for accounts that are already tax-deferred, like 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. This makes absolutely no sense, because these accounts are already tax-advantaged. If someone tries to sell you a variable annuity to hold in a tax-deferred account or encourages you to purchase an annuity before you maximize your retirement plan contribution, head for the exit.

    3. From an estate planning perspective, proceeds from most deferred annuities do not receive a “step up” in cost basis when the owner dies. Other types of investments, such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds, do provide a step up in tax basis upon the owner’s death, which can limit the tax liability for your heirs.

    By far the most problematic issue with deferred, variable and equity-index annuities are the sky-high costs. Mortality and expense charges (M E), administrative fees, underlying fund expenses, charges for special features and the salesperson’s commission can eat up 2-3 percent of the value of your investment every year!

    Insurance professionals will talk about the value of the death benefit of these contracts, but since most people are using the funds in retirement, the death benefit is irrelevant. If you do need life insurance, there are lots of cheaper options, like term insurance.

    By now you realize that I’m not a huge fan of deferred variable annuities, but if you already own one, consider exchanging it for a lower cost one through TIAA-CREF or Vanguard. Section 1035 of the tax code allows you to swap one annuity for similar one without triggering tax liability.

    When considering annuities to secure income in retirement, make sure you weigh the potential benefits as well as the inherent risks in these complicated savings vehicles.

    Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

    2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

    View all articles by Jill Schlesinger on CBS MoneyWatch
    Jill Schlesinger, CFP , is the Emmy-nominated, Business Analyst for CBS News. She covers the economy, markets, investing and anything else with a dollar sign on TV, radio (including her nationally syndicated radio show), the web and her blog, “Jill on Money.” Prior to her second career at CBS, Jill spent 14 years as the co-owner and Chief Investment Officer for an independent investment advisory firm. She began her career as a self-employed options trader on the Commodities Exchange of New York, following her graduation from Brown University.