Consumer guide to going green Climate change is an existential threat to our way of life here in the Ocean State and the Attorney General, as our state’s chief environmental advocate, is fighting to hold the companies that cause it responsible and protect Rhode Islanders from businesses looking to take advantage of consumers. The Office of the Attorney General also wants to help support and educate Rhode Islanders looking to do their part to combat climate change and take advantage of the various government programs incentivizing all of us to “go green.” To that end, we have put together this guide to help you understand climate change, how you can help by the choices you make, and help you navigate the various ways you can save money in the process. We will continuously update this page with new information and as incentive programs evolve. On April 14, 2021, Governor Dan McKee signed into law the 2021 Act on Climate. This law set enforceable climate emissions reduction mandates that require a 45% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2040, and to reach net-zero by 2050. In December of 2022, the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council released its 2022 Climate Update, which details the steps Rhode Island plans to take to reach the 2021 Act on Climate mandates. Rhode Island’s Climate Action Timeline also provides a helpful overview and links to all relevant laws enacted, studies conducted, and actions taken, to date, by Rhode Island. Moving forward, in November 2025, the State of Rhode Island will release its Comprehensive Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution. Input will be solicited from Rhode Islanders at every step in this process, so reach out to your state and local representatives to make your voice heard. Here are a few resources where you can learn more about climate change, its impacts, and what more we can do: Calculate your carbon footprint, to better understand your household’s carbon contribution and where improvements can be made. The Environmental Protection Agency has a webpage on What You Can Do About Climate Change, which provides category-specific actions consumers can take to lessen their footprints. Learn more about federal climate initiatives through the White House’s National Climate Task Force. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitors climate on a national and global scale and provides detailed reports on impacts like temperature, precipitation, snow and ice, drought and wildfire, storms and wind, and weather patterns. NASA also runs the Global Climate Change, Vital Signs of the Plant webpage which shows impacts on a global scale, including the extent of sea ice melting, increases in sea level rise, and ocean warming. NASA also provides a Guide to Climate Change for Kids which provides simple answers to complex problems, like “has climate ever changed before” and “what does carbon have to do with it?” How can consumers help? With respect to climate change mitigation, individual behavior can add up. There are tons of products on the market that have numerous financial incentives (through both the federal and Rhode Island state government) to encourage Rhode Islanders to purchase products that have less or no environmental impact. The following types of products are just a few ways that Rhode Islanders can change their own individual behavior to help Rhode Island reach its 2021 Act on Climate greenhouse gas reduction goals. But whichever product(s) you purchase, you should be fully informed about what you are buying, and that your product is coming from a reputable source. Below are some examples of environmentally friendlier product options, and your most common questions, asked and answered. Heating, cooling and other residential products Is a heat pump a more environmentally friendly way to heat and cool my home? Yes. A heat pump system typically uses less energy than an electric heater, or gas and oil furnaces, and heat pumps emit fewer greenhouse gases than other heating and cooling systems. What rebates are available for the purchase of heat pumps? State and federal tax credits may apply. To qualify for enhanced state rebates, a no-cost EnergyWise home energy assessment must be completed to determine if any weatherization improvements are required to ensure the maximum efficiency of your new heat pump system. For questions or to schedule a no-cost energy assessment, call 888-633-7947. After your home energy audit, review the recommendations before sizing your heat pump. Rebates Available from the Federal Government: You can claim 30% of project costs for air-source and ground-source heat pumps, up to a maximum credit amount of $2,000 available. Eligible rebates range up to $1,200 for the insulation, and up to $2,000 for the heat pump for installing a heat pump in 2023. The exact value depends on income level and several other factors. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act also created the Energy Efficiency Home Improvement Credit for upgrading electrical panels (up to $4,000) and wiring (up to $2,500), which may be necessary in older homes when installing heat pumps. Rebates Available in the State of Rhode Island: Rhode Island Energy offers a $600 rebate on qualifying electric heat pump water heaters. Rhode Island Energy customers replacing or displacing oil or propane heating systems with energy-efficient air source heat pumps may be eligible for two rebates – a standard rebate and an enhanced rebate conditioned on a home energy assessment. Additionally, Rhode Island Energy offers a rebate of up to $1,250/ton of your system capacity for customers who install Energy Star certified electric central heat pumps or mini-split heat pumps. Pascoag Utility District offers a $350-700 rebate for air source heat pump, and up to a $450 rebate for heat pump water heaters. Block Island Power Company offers a $250 rebate for air source heat pumps, and up to $300 rebate for heat pump water heaters. The company offers additional rebates for weatherization. Do heat pumps work in cold weather? Yes. Heat pumps can work as a home’s main heating system in most climates. Is there anything I need to do before purchasing a heat pump? Before upgrading to a new heat pump, make sure to sufficiently insulate any attic space. Choosing the right system for your home is best done in consultation with a properly registered and licensed contractor or professional, and can generate certain federal and state tax benefits that can contribute to lowered costs for heating or cooling your home. What maintenance is required? A professional technician should service your heat pump once a year. You can extend the life of your heat pump through regular service, and by keeping up with the following maintenance which can prevent dust and debris from reducing the airflow in your system. Clean or change filters once a month or as needed, and maintain the system according to manufacturer's instructions. Clean outdoor coils whenever they appear dirty. Occasionally clean the fan. Remove any debris and clutter from the outdoor unit. How do I know if my heat pump installer is reputable? Verify that your contractor is properly registered with the Department of Business Regulation (found here) and that any technician has proper mechanical licensure from the Department of Labor and Training (found here). A list of contractors approved by the Rhode Island Heating and Cooling Program with Rhode Island Energy can be found here. The listed contractors have been trained to be well-versed in the proper protocols, and may be able to provide helpful information on what rebates you may qualify for after installing a high-efficiency, energy-saving device. How do I find the best deal on a heat pump? Make sure to use a reputable source that will allow you to estimate a fair price for the type of heat pump you have selected. Websites like EnergySage (one example of a privately-owned comparison-shopping website) can assist you in determining what price is reasonable for your heat pump. All heat pumps are sold with an EnergyGuide label which displays the heat pump’s efficiency rating as compared with other makes and models. A higher initial cost may return the initial investment, depending on its efficiency. Are heat pumps noisy? Fans and compressors are likely to make audible noise. This can be limited by mounting a unit on a noise-absorbing base or selecting a unit with a lower outdoor sound rating at the time of purchase. What types of heat pumps can I chose from? Air source heat pumps can be either ductless or ducted. For a ductless air source heat pump, only a three-inch hole in a wall is required to connect the device to the outdoor condenser. In contrast, a ducted system would use a home’s existing ventilation system. Mini-split systems are a good option for heating or cooling individual rooms or add-ons to existing homes. These systems are generally easier to install, and may grant additional flexibility in locating your compressor. The upfront cost of mini-split systems may be higher than comparable air source units. What problems can a heat pump unit have? Low airflow, unsealed ducts, and incorrect refrigerant charge can all lower your heat pump’s efficiency. With subpar airflow, the efficiency and performance of your heat pump unit is likely to decline. Where can I find more information about heat pumps? State of Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (Air Source Heat Pumps) Neep’s Cold Climate Air Source Heat Pump List (Air Source Heat Pump List) Energy Savings Hub - The Department of Energy launched the Energy Savings Hub to provide families and consumers access to energy savings through President Biden’s Investing in America plan. This hub gives everyone access to the tax credits and rebates that are available to help with energy savings and efficiency. To learn more, visit https://www.energy.gov/save. What is a heat pump water heater? Like heat pumps, heat pump water heaters also use a fan and refrigerant loop to move heat. Yearly savings can be around $100-$250 compared to other water heaters. What rebates are available for the purchase of heat pump water heaters? Upgrading to a high-efficiency natural gas water heater, may make you eligible for a rebate up to $600. Similar rebates are available for heat pump water heaters, attic insulation and sealing, new windows, and upgrades to your electric panel. Rebates Available from the Federal Government: For products purchased in 2023 and going forward, heat pump water heaters are eligible for a federal tax credit up to $2,000 representing 30 percent of your project’s cost. Only heat pump water heaters that are Energy Star certified qualify for the credit. Rebates Available from the State of Rhode Island: Rhode Island Energy offers a $600 rebate on qualifying electric heat pump water heaters, and a $1,400 rebate on a combined condensing boiler and on-demand water heating unit. Additionally, on-demand storage and water heaters are eligible for a rebate of up to $600. Are there other energy efficient products with available rebates? Rhode Island Energy offers the following rebates for qualifying Energy Star certified appliances: Electric clothes dryer – $50 rebate Dehumidifier – $30 rebate Room Air Cleaner – $40 rebate Room Air Conditioner – $40 rebate Smart Thermostat – up to $75 rebate. The smart thermostat can be purchased at the store or installed by a contractor. Refrigerator or freezer recycling – $50 rebate Natural Gas Boilers and Furnaces – up to $1,000: Rhode Island Energy offers rebates up to $1,000 for a boiler and up to $600 for a furnace. Are there any programs for those on fixed incomes? The State of Rhode Island’s Weatherization Assistance Program helps income-eligible households reduce heating bills by providing whole house energy efficiency services to households that qualify for the federal LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Available services include installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, reducing drafts from less insulated windows, and providing proper ventilation. Electric vehicles Why should I consider an electric car? Electric vehicles can reduce your impact on the environment and meaningfully move you and your family towards energy independence by reducing fuel costs and decreasing emissions. The latest report on the number of electric cars in Rhode Island was 5,627 vehicles, according to the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. Tax incentives are designed to encourage Rhode Island residents to buy electric vehicles by granting rebates to purchasers who meet certain income requirements. What rebates are available for the purchase of electric cars? The Drive EV program maintained by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources could grant you a $2,000 rebate for new Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) or new Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs), or a $1,000 rebate for new Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs); $1,000 for used Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) or used Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs); $750 for used Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). The DRIVE+ program provides additional incentives of up to $1,500 for qualified Rhode Islanders who purchase or lease an eligible electric vehicle and meet certain income requirements. Purchases or leases must be under $60,000 or $40,000, depending on the vehicle, to qualify for rebates. Purchase or lease date must be on or after July 7, 2022. Eligible vehicles must be purchased or leased by a Rhode Island resident at a licensed Rhode Island automotive dealership and registered in Rhode Island. Who do I contact if I have questions about the electric car rebate program? Please contact the DRIVE EV program administrator at (401)-574-9117, or Energy.DriveEv@energy.ri.gov, for all program inquires. Are federal tax credits available for electric car purchases? All-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell electric vehicles purchased new in 2023 or afterwards may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The availability of the credit will depend on several factors, including the vehicle's MSRP, its final assembly location, battery component and/or critical minerals sourcing, and the applicant’s income. Pre-owned vehicles purchased in 2023 or after are eligible for a tax credit of up to $4,000. What is an electric bike and how is it powered? An “e-bike” is a bicycle equipped with an electric motor that aids the rider. The motor is typically located in the hub of the wheel or a part of the crankset. The motor provides additional power when pedaling through a throttle control system. Electric bikes are usually powered through rechargeable batteries which supply energy to the electric motor. The battery can typically be removed for recharging. Are there any incentives for purchasing an electric bike? The state of Rhode Island provides incentives to encourage the adoption of electric bikes (“e-bikes”). The Erika Niedowski Memorial Bicycle Rebate Program is still ongoing. Beginning October 24, 2022, qualifying e-bike purchasers (note: no scooters, moped, motorcycles, or converted electric bikes are eligible) can apply within 180 days of purchase for a rebate from the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. If you qualify and if funds remain, purchasers can save anywhere between $350 and $700 on the total purchase of an e-bike, or e-cargo bike. E-bikes are an environmentally friendly method of transport due to their small carbon footprint and low emissions. Are there any federal tax credits for purchase of an e-bike? Not at this time, although legislation was proposed, but not passed, in 2023.