While winter is still very much upon us, warmer weather is around the corner. With every changing of the New England seasons, weatherization and home upgrades inevitably become a topic of conversation in Connecticut households.

Whether you need a new refrigerator, or you've been putting off that new insulation in your attic, or you've been considering whether to purchase new window air conditioners or to finally invest in a central air system for the coming hot summer months, the state and federal government have programs available to make your decisions a little easier and to save your pocketbook.

Several federal energy tax credits are available until December 2010. The credits cover Energy Star-qualified efficient products, including home insulation, windows and doors, roofing, HVAC systems, water heaters and biomass stoves (including pellet stoves). The credits cover up to 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500.

Also of note: Many of these Energy Star-items -- like insulation, windows and water heaters -- are already exempt from the state sales tax. This offers you an added savings on the purchase and installation of these household products. Also exempt from the state sales tax are energy-efficient compact-fluorescent light bulbs, which offer a very simple and cost-effective way to make some money-saving upgrades to your home.

The federal government also offers credits for the installation of larger, more expensive systems, like geothermal heat pumps, solar energy systems and small wind energy systems. Recognizing the longer-term investment of these systems, those credits are available until December 2016.

For more information on federal tax credits and other federal programs that can help improve your energy efficiency and save you money, or to find out how to apply for the various federal tax credits, visit www.energystar.gov.

Another program available to Connecticut consumers is the stimulus-funded Connecticut Recovery Appliance Rebate Program. The state received $3.4 million to provide rebates to consumers who purchase and install Energy Star-rated appliances, like refrigerators and freezers, clothes washers, air conditioners and central air conditioning units.

Through this program -- which is being administered by the state Office of Policy and Management and is in effect until April 30, 2010 -- gives a consumer rebate from $50 to $500 depending on the type of appliance purchased. Information and rebate forms can be found at www.ct.gov/opm/ApplianceRebates or can be obtained by calling 1-877-WISE-USE (947-3873).

These are tough times for many families in Connecticut, but if you've been thinking about making some improvements or you have an appliance that's nearing the end of its usable life, these credits and rebates could offer you a more affordable way to make the upgrades your household needs.