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Stimulus Plans: Time for New Windows and Doors?

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ August 7, 2009

I don't always believe claims on returns on investment for home improvements. The fluctuating costs for materials and labor-let alone the continual development of better products-makes it all a moving target. But I'm thoroughly convinced that replacing your windows with energy efficient substitutes can make a difference in utility bills and curb appeal.

Recently, I heard about tax credits for installing new energy-efficient windows, skylights, and doors as part of the stimulus plan. With contractors scrambling to make up for fewer customers in the current economy and the $1,500 tax credit for new windows, it could be the perfect time to upgrade your windows. You can read about the credit at the Efficient Windows website.

Do An Energy Audit

The Federal Government has a useful online tool for comparing your year's-worth of energy bills with similar homes around the country based on zip code, square footage, and family size. You'll just need a 12-month summary of bills from your utility company (if you haven't saved a year's worth of statements) to get started.

Once you have a baseline on how your home is performing, you can make an informed decision on replacement doors and windows. A great way to learn about energy savers for your home improvement projects is through The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). Fenestrations are any openings (windows, skylights, and doors) to the outdoor elements in your home.

When you shop for replacement windows, you'll find an NFRC label affixed to the product. Ratings measure Condensation Resistance, U-factors, Solar Heat Gain, and Daylighting capacities of each product. In fact, to receive the tax credit for your replacement project, you'll need to buy doors or windows that comply with NFRC ratings and a signed statement from your supplier.

Understanding NFRC Values

The major performance ratings listed on window, skylights, and doors measure R-value, the product's resistance to heat flow, and U-value, the product's heat conduction properties. Manufacturers are evaluated by their compliance with federal energy-savings guidelines for

Air leakage

U-factor

Visible transmittance (VT)

R-values

Sunlight Transmittance

Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC)

Light-to-solar gain (LSG)

For a complete explanation of the measurements and guidelines, visit the government's Energy Savers website.

It's certainly worth an hour of your time to evaluate your current energy use, the kinds of replacement door and window products out there in the market, and whether saving up to a third of your purchase price in tax credits.

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