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PVC window profileIt’s pretty safe to say that none of us enjoy handing our hard-earned money over to Uncle Sam during tax season, but fortunately there are ways for homeowners to trim a few dollars off their tax bill by knowing which home improvements enable them to qualify for energy efficiency tax credits.

Through a nifty little tax incentive known as the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit, the federal government offers a tax credit for homeowners who install various energy efficient products (e.g., doors, windows, skylights, etc.) in their primary residence. As a home builder or contractor, you may have clients who request for their home to be outfitted with energy efficient items, but bear in mind that the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit only applies to ENERGY STAR certified home improvement products, such as:

  • Energy-efficient exterior doors, windows and skylights
  • Insulation and weather stripping that improves energy efficiency by reducing heat loss or gain
  • Storm doors and/or storm windows that have been installed over certain types of doors and windows based on ENERGY STAR’s Climate Zone Map found here.

What Makes a Window Energy-Efficient?

According to ENERGY STAR, energy-efficient windows feature higher quality frame materials such as fiberglass, aluminum, vinyl, wood and various composites that reduce heat transfer and provide better insulation. These windows also feature Low-E (low emissivity) glass, which has a transparent, microscopically thin coating that reflects harmful ultraviolet light.

This special coating also keeps heat in during winter (and out during summer), and protects interior furnishings from sun damage and fading. In addition, many ENERGY STAR certified windows feature multiple panes of glass that contain non-toxic gases such as argon and krypton between the layers, which improves insulation and reduces noise transmission.

What Makes a Door Energy-Efficient?

Energy-efficient doors typically employ certain important features such as multiple glass panels to reduce heat flow, improved core materials to provide better insulation, and improved weather stripping to reduce air leakage. If an energy-efficient door contains any decorative glass paneling, it’s usually double or triple-paned in order to improve insulation by limiting the flow of heat into the house during the summer (and out of the house in winter). In addition, the frames on many energy-efficient doors include a magnetic strip that reduces air leakage by providing a tighter seal.

ENERGY STAR Certified Materials: What to Look For 

All ENERGY STAR qualified doors and windows have been independently tested according to a set of procedures established by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), a non-profit organization that provides labeling and rating standards for window, door and skylight performance. Look for the NFRC label to give you important rating information about the following categories:

  • U-Factor – This measures the insulation quality and heat transfer rate for windows. The rating typically ranges from 0.25 to 1.25, with lower numbers representing better insulation quality.
  • Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) – This gives you an idea of how well the product blocks heat that is caused by sunlight. Values for this number typically range from 0.25 to 0.80, with lower numbers representing better protection from solar heat.
  • Visible Transmittance (VT) – This measures how much light the window lets through, and is measured on a scale of 0 to 1, with common values ranging between 0.20 and 0.80. Higher numbers indicate a greater amount of light being allowed through the window.
  • Air Leakage (AL) – This keeps track of how many cubic feet of air pass through 1 square foot of window space per minute. Industry standards typically require a rating of 0.3 or better.
  • Condensation Resistance – This is measured on a scale of 0 to 100, with higher numbers representing less condensation (a.k.a. moisture) build-up allowed on the window.

As you’re selecting windows and doors for your next energy-efficient building or contracting project, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR qualification label, and take a close look at the NFRC label to assess each product’s performance. Implementing energy-efficient products into your project will not only help your clients move toward their goals of greater environmental responsibility, but it could help them reduce their tax burden as well.