The recent $14.5 billion energy bill was enacted before Katrina, and the tax credits for spending on energy-saving home improvements and vehicles don't kick in until Jan. 1. But as we're in for a long period of high utility and gas prices, the credits can help. Energy-efficient appliances, such as dishwashers or refrigerators, won't qualify. According to experts at tax information specialist RIA, you can claim credits for:
-- 30% of the cost of solar panels, plus 30% for a solar water heater. Each credit is capped at $2,000, and you've got to install the equipment in 2006 or 2007. You can take the credits on a primary and vacation home, but not on pool or hot tub heaters.
-- 10% of the cost of energy-saving doors, windows, insulation, and roofs, plus up to $300 for efficient central air conditioners and water heaters powered by natural gas, propane, or oil. You can also claim $150 for efficient furnaces and $50 for energy-saving fans. The hitch: You can claim only $500 in total -- with just $200 for windows -- for your primary home only.
-- Up to $3,400 for a hybrid car or light truck. You must buy between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2010, but once your car's manufacturer sells more than 60,000 hybrids, the amount you can claim will be reduced.
One group loses out: taxpayers subject to the alternative minimum tax next year. You can't take the credits unless Congress changes the tax laws.
There's nothing laid back about spas these days. A frenzy of new development is giving the industry a lift:
MEN ACCOUNT FOR 29% of all spa goers, yet spas are still a woman's domain with those fruity body treatments and New Age music. To make guys feel more at home, Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess outside Phoenix is introducing male-only treatment suites in late September. The rooms will be like bachelor pads, with flat-screen TVs, leather furniture, and more masculine-looking robes than the standard white terry-cloth issue. And in order to free spa-shy men from having to shuttle between rooms, the suites also feature all-in-one treatment tables for pedicures, facials, and massages. The suites are coming to six other Willow Stream spas by next year.
THE REAL ESTATE BOOM is extending to spas. This fall, Sundara Spa in Wisconsin is opening 26 residences, and next year, Canyon Ranch Living will offer 442 condominiums, plus an 83,000-square-foot spa and fitness center in Miami. Check out spafinder.com/spas/realestate for more places to live and spa.
KOHLER WATERS SPA in Wisconsin is adjacent to Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, two of America's top-ranked golf courses. Now, Kohler is revamping a spa overlooking the 17th hole at golf's mecca, the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. Scheduled to open in February, 2006, the 13,000-square-foot spa at the Old Course Hotel will emphasize water treatments. They'll include Cooler Near the Sea, designed to mimic the Baltic Sea's rapidly shifting weather patterns and improve blood circulation with a hot body shower followed by a cold stone massage.
If you're a rocker with champagne tastes, check out Mumm Napa Winery's Legends of Rock photo exhibit, which runs through March, 2006, at the Rutherford (Calif.) winery (mummnapa.com). The show features images of rock icons such as Keith Richard and Janis Joplin. You can also sample Santana DVX, a sparkling wine created with guitarist Carlos Santana. At $55, it's cheaper than a ticket to a concert.