GOLDEN, Colo. - ServiceMagic Inc., a national Web-based business connecting consumers with prescreened and customer-rated residential contractors, reports a 32 percent increase in online consumer service requests related to energy conservation during the fall of 2005 as compared to 2004.

"Americans have heard the warnings that energy costs are on the rise and they're taking action. Some are addressing the issue with small fixes but many are thinking longer-term," said Rodney Rice, co-CEO of ServiceMagic.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American household spends $1,500 annually on energy bills. Experts are forecasting this number may go up as much as 50 percent this year. Almost half of that energy fuels heating and cooling the home. On average, homes heated with natural gas will see the biggest increase in energy costs this winter with a 41 percent increase, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), followed by oil with a 27 percent increase, and households heated by electricity will likely see a 5 percent increase this winter.

Taking action to conserve energy will not only lower monthly energy bills, but may help around tax time as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), homeowners may be eligible to receive the following credits: up to 30 percent of the cost, or up to $2,000, for installing solar-powered hot-water systems used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs; up to $500 on the amount spent to upgrade thermostats, to caulk leaks, or to stop energy waste; up to $200 credit for installation of new exterior windows; up to $300 credit for purchases of a highly efficient central air conditioner, heat pump, or water heater; or up to $150 for installation of a highly efficient furnace or boiler.

Publication date: 11/21/2005