If you’re thinking about replacing your windows this year with more energy efficient options, Washington just upped the incentive to actually get the job done. As part of the “fiscal cliff” agreement earlier this year, federal lawmakers agreed to reinstate the energy efficiency home improvement tax credits that had expired with 2011.
Homeowners who did not claim the full credit from 2006-11 can now
receive 10 percent of the cost, up to a $200 tax credit, for Energy Star
qualifying replacement windows purchased between Jan. 1, 2012 through
the end of this year. Homeowners can also claim up to a $500 tax credit
for other energy efficient home improvements from heating and cooling
systems to insulation. More information on the program eligibility can
be found at www.energystar.gov.
High-performance, low-emissivity vinyl windows are the top choice for
homeowners looking for maximum energy efficiency. They help keep the
heat out during the summer and the warm air in during the winter.
“They’ve come so far,” says Dennis Ewton, owner of King County Window
& Glass, LLC in Federal Way, Wash. “The standard (vinyl window) is
two coats of the low-E (glaze), but now they have three coats of low-E,
so that’s a real plus. The low-E is what really works as far as the
performance of the window. During the summer, the high performance
low-E, the max, will reflect 94 percent of those ultraviolet rays that
come in and fade the furniture, carpet and floors, and really heat the
place up. It slows that heat transfer down in the winter. A standard
low-E reflects about 84 percent.”
Thought the lure of tax savings can be appealing, replacement windows
are a significant investment. Don’t neglect your due diligence and rush
into this or any other home improvement project. To start, take time to
find a reputable and qualified company that is going to explain your
options and provide information on which windows do qualify for the tax
credit. There are a variety of sales tactics companies use, the most
notorious is the high-pressure sales job in which they offer a
“discount” on inflated prices in exchange for an immediate decision.
“I don’t like people to do high-pressure sales on me,” says Jamie
Schaffer with Superior Replacement Window & Door, Inc. in Cutler
Bay, Fla. “It really turns me off. In my business, we operate on a
consultative approach. We try to give our customers as much information
as possible, so they can make an educated decision. We don’t ever want
them to feel pressured to make a decision right there on the spot.”
Another approach is to offer a super-low price quote only to start tacking on extra charges once they get in the house.
“Don’t go by price alone,” says Jeff Wright of Atlas Window &
Siding Co. of Lexington, Ky. “There are companies out there that
advertise really low prices. Those really low prices are gimmicks to get
their foot in the door, then once they’re in there, people find out
it’s a really low-end product. It’s like a bait and switch almost.”
Get bids from at least three different window companies and ask the
salesperson to provide the pricing and the ratings for each window type
in writing. Also, if your home was built before 1978, be sure the window
installers can provide proof of EPA certification for lead paint
If you plan to claim the credit, consult your tax professional to be
sure you’re due the credit, buy the correct materials and have the
documentation you need to claim your savings.