You need a scorecard to keep up with Washington's budgetary moves these days.
When legislators kept the nation from toppling off a fiscal cliff, they left a host of key housing and mortgage related benefits intact .
That's a good thing.
Not so good.
There's one other bit of good news that came out of the fiscal cliff-averting "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" - federal tax credits for energy efficient upgrades.
Tax credits for energy efficient home improvements
The credits vary, but can cut hundreds of dollars off taxes due. Tax credits are deducted, dollar-for-dollar, from your tax bill and can result in a refund if the credit is larger than your taxes due.
Deductions, on the other hand, are subtracted from your income, so there's less income to tax.
Energy efficient home improvement tax credits go back to 2006, were last due to expire in 2011, but were extended for 2012 and 2013.
Renewable energy source tax credits for wind, solar and geothermal improvements are available through 2016.
Some states offer additional financial incentives for energy efficient home improvements.
You file for the credits with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 5695 . Be sure to keep a copy of the "Manufacturer's Certification Statement," to be sure the work and materials qualify, as well as any receipts or itemized bills.
For each item, Consumer Reports offers ratings and recommendations for the best products, which must meet Energy Star or other standards.
Windows, doors and skylights - You can replace one or outfit your home with a full array of new windows, doors and skylights.
The credit is 10 percent of the cost of the materials only - not installation - up to $200 for windows, $500 for doors and skylights.
Metal and asphalt roofs - Even without a tax credit, roofing materials that can lower a roof's surface temperature by up to 100 degrees is a plus for your utility bill. The credit is 10 percent of the cost of the materials - not including installation - up to $500.
Insulation - Insulation batts, rolls, blow-in fibers, rigid boards, expanding spray, and pour-in-place materials can qualify. Likewise, qualified weather stripping, spray foam in a can, caulk and house wrap is covered.
The credit is 10 percent of the cost of the materials - not installation - up to $500. Some installation work is a do-it-yourself job.
Non-solar water heaters - Heating water can add up to 25 percent of the energy used in your home. Qualifying water heaters can include gas, oil, propane and electric heat pumps.
The tax credit is a flat $300.
Energy systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Gas, propane or oil hot water boilers and natural gas, propane or oil furnaces can come with a $150 tax credit.
Finally, advanced main air circulating fans that use no more than two percent of the furnace's total energy to circulate heat through the duct system. The tax credit is $50.