The tax credit for several home improvements including windows was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 implemented back in late February. In the window industry, this act caused lots of confusion as requirements for windows qualifying for the tax credit, were vastly different than qualifying a window for Energy Star.
The Energy Star criteria has been the benchmark in the industry for many years. It seemed that the right arm didn't know what the left arm was doing in this case. You would have thought the different branches within the government would have consulted each other, in this case, the lawmakers and the Dept. of Energy. Unfortunately, this didn't happen, and there was a lot of confusion that arose.
Here is the challenge that came up, in order for windows to qualify for the tax credit, the windows needed to achieve an overall u-value of a .30 or less, and achieve a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of a .30 or less. The numbers are not particularly unfair to window manufacturers, but they are a bit unfair to homeowners.
For example, a person living in the north, would want the SHGC to be higher (have less performance). The reason for this is in the winter, homeowners want more of the sun's rays to come in and heat the house. This results in using the home's heating unit less.
In southern climates a SHGC of a .30 or less makes sense because homeowners in these climates, want to keep the sun's rays from heating the house up for the majority of year, thus relying less on their air conditioning units.
And what if you purchased windows earlier in 2009 before the tax credit was announced, or if you had windows in process when the announcement was made, that were Energy Star qualifed, but didn't fit the .30/.30 criteria?
Well the IRS has just announced that Energy Star qualified windows purchased through June 1st, 2009, would also qualify for the tax credit. On June 1st, the IRS will release another statement clarifying their position, but it is almost certain that the .30/.30 qualification will be back in full effect.
Many window manufactures didn't have windows that could get to the .30/.30 qualification, and many still don't. From a homeowner perspective, if we are in the market to improve our homes, we are going to look at the tax credit qualified windows first. T
his has resulted in many window manufacturers to implement new glass packages, new window packages, and more R&D to make this happen sooner rather than later. Initially, this could result in higher costs to homeowners, but in the long run, in my opinion, it will result in better performing windows using less energy. This will reduce the use of natural resources whether domestic or foreign - and it will help us become a greener nation.