Whether your gifts are all wrapped and neatly stacked under the tree or you’ll be running on some late-night shopping sprees, holiday merriment hangs heavy in the air – although wallets are usually somewhat lighter. Hold on to the seasonal cheer – and some hard-earned dollars – all year long by taking advantage of renewable energy sources: It’s an investment that can put cash in your pocket for many years to come.

It’s not the most jolly thought, but traditional energy sources – gas and oil, for example – can be not only costly, but will eventually be depleted. Renewable energy sources, including the wind, the ground (used in geothermal heating), and especially the sun, work harder than Santa’s little helpers, never dwindle and, best of all, can cut down those not-so-merry utility bills.

Before even considering a renewable-energy home makeover, Malcarne Contracting experts recommend making sure your home is well-sealed and -insulated, specifically checking the walls, attic and basement for places where warm air can escape outside. After that, have a professional check your heating and distribution systems to get them working to their full potential.

This step, likely an inexpensive fix, can already begin reduce your energy bills without much time, effort or cost, and paves the way for a renewable energy system. Malcarne specializes in installing systems that use the sun to offset traditional heating sources: Solar electric systems, for example, convert the sun’s energy into electricity via roof panels, while a solar thermal system utilizes “solar walls,” panels installed on the side of a home, to use the sun to heat water. Once they’re in place, your home can use as much of the sun’s light and energy as it needs – but it’s both eco- and wallet-friendly.
Although renewable energy significantly cuts down on energy bills, there is an upfront cost: It’s an investment, but a wise one for your home and family’s future. For example, a solar electric system may initially cost between $12,000 and $15,000. However, with that price tag come tax credits and incentives, which can reduce the net out-of-pocket expense to between $1,500 and $3,000 after the rebates – less than a minor home upgrade.

Three forms of funding are available for these renewable-energy changes, including a 25 percent state tax credit (capped at $5,000), a 30 percent federal tax credit (with no cap) – both of which can be used until 2016 – as well as incentives available from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

In addition, those at Malcarne say you’re likely to see a payback from a solar electric system in less than a decade, while a solar thermal system takes only about three to five years. And, you may want to put a renewable energy system on your wish list sooner rather than later: These numbers are based on today’s energy prices, which are likely to become more expensive with time. Chances are, because of those rising prices, you won’t have to wait as long to see your investment pay off.

Sure, it may be tempting to sink that Christmas bonus into those holiday presents, but an investment in renewable energy will always put cash back in your pocket, regardless of the market or economy. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving – even if it doesn’t fit under the tree.