Example of NFRC label

Example of NFRC label

Listen up if you’re thinking about upgrading your windows as a green improvement and hoping to save some cash in the process.

That’s a wise move. With this energy efficient project, you’ll immediately start enjoying better indoor natural lighting.

Also expect your power bills to drop by 15%, on average. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said: “People can improve their homes and save money over the long run.”

Be warned; however, before you proceed you’ll want to know this …

Even though it may seem odd, not just any energy efficient window qualifies for the latest energy tax credit.

[Speaking of odd, did you know that only six calendar dates this century feature three consecutive odd numbers? Last Thursday, 05-07-09, was one of them.]

Anyway, back on topic…

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cautions “… the new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) law has increased the energy efficiency standards for… exterior windows … placed in service after Feb. 17, 2009.”

Translated: To get the rebate, I now have to buy a high-performance window instead of just a better quality window.

How do I know if my windows meet the standards?

Energy Star says that to get the tax credit all windows must have a U-factor less than or equal to 0.35 and  Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) less than or equal to 0.30.

Understand, people, these are two exceptionally high standards for windows in the Southeast.

If you install your windows between Feb. 17 and June 1, there’s a “Safe Harbor” provision that allows you to rely on manufacturer’s certifications or Energy Star labels for buying qualifying products until updated certification information is given by the IRS.

To be really safe though, get 0.30 rated windows.

So where do I check for the details?

You can find the U-factor and SHGC on the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label. See my example in this post. NFRC is the only federally recognized organization for determining the energy performance of windows, doors and skylights.

U-factor is a measure of the thermal resistance to heat flow of the overall window.

Many building codes typically require U-factors that range from 0.35 in northern states to 1.2 in southern states. The lower the value, the greater the resistance to heat flow.

Also, the lower the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) number the better. Low numbers let less sun energy through the window and into the space.

A typical double-paned window with clear glass lets in about 75% of the sun’s heat, which can feel like a giant heat lamp!

SHGC is more important in hot climates; U-factor is more important in colder one.

Important tax credit numbers:

  • Buy products between Feb. 17, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010, and get a tax credit equal to 30 percent of the product cost.
  • If you bought earlier (Jan.1 2009 to Feb. 16, 2009), the tax credit rules are less clear. All you can do now is wait for the IRS’s mercy to let you get it.

Note: The maximum amount of credit for all improvements combined (including roofing, insulation, skylights, some HVAC equipment and water heaters) is $1,500 during 2009 and 2010.

Rob Marvin at the IRS points out though, the new tax credit of $1,500 is three times more than was allowed in 2007.

Is it really worth replacing my windows?

Yes, because there are so many short- and long-term benefits. With high-performance windows, every month of their 20-year life, you’ll enjoy lower power bills with lower energy use.

Properly installed new windows reduce outside noise, pollen infiltration and drafts, which improves your indoor comfort. The new invisible window coatings are also friendlier on fabric and carpets because they screen more UV rays.

The US Green Building Council says better-performing windows reduce the risk of condensation, thus leading to improved home durability.

Now because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 tax credits, buying these higher quality windows will probably cost 5-15% more.

Don’t be discouraged about that. Besides the federal tax credits, there may be some local rebates available in your state. After reading this post, visit www.energystar.gov/rebatefinder.

Energy Star notes that the time to recover your initial upgrade investment can be as short as three years.

If you hesitate about the cost of replacing all of your windows, consider doing it in phases. Replace your south or west-facing windows first, since protection from heat gain is paramount in the Southeast.

Be sure to consult with your tax professional with specific questions since my post is not intended as legal advice.

Tip: Besides new windows, save energy by planting deciduous trees near your south, east and west-facing windows. You’ll get cooling summer shade, and when the leaves fall off, you’ll then get free heat in winter.

Got any other window questions? Make your comment here.

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