2016 Window Tax Credit Details and Information

As an observant window shopper you may have heard about the 2016 window tax credit.  There have long been tax credits associated with energy efficient replacement windows and the federal government has just extended the tax credit for new replacement windows and energy efficient doors.

Which windows qualify?

Over the years there have been different methods for determining which windows and doors qualify for various tax credits.  In 2016 the government is using the Energy Star guidelines to determine which replacement windows and doors qualify.

If your new windows and doors are Energy Star certified then you’ll qualify for the tax credit.  Most manufacturers offer many qualifying options.

What are the 2016 Energy Star guidelines?

The guidelines vary based on where you live.  This is a pretty reasonable method as folks in Phoenix need different windows than folks in Maine.  The exact requirements for your location are shown here and your window installation company should be able to make sure they’re offering you windows that will qualify.

2016 Energy Star tax credit requirements for windows and doors
Windows and doors that meet or exceed the ratings shown here will qualify for the 2016 federal tax credit.

How much is the tax credit?

The tax credit for 2016 is based on the cost of the windows.  You’ll be eligible for a federal tax credit of 10% of the cost of the windows, not including labor costs, up to $200.

The tax credit for doors is similar.  It’s 10% of the cost of the doors, not including labor, up to $500.

This is only $200?

If you’re one of those people who says, “oh, it’s only $200 well that’s nothing” then please make a check out to me for $200 and drop it in the mail.

I know it would be better if it was $2,000, but c’mon $200 is $200.  Go buy your sweetheart something nice and quit your grumbling.

Is this a tax credit or a tax deduction?

This is a tax credit.  This means your tax bill will be reduced by $200.  There is no consideration for how much you make or how much you pay.  If you owed $10,000 in taxes you’ll only owe $9,800 if you spent over $2,000 on qualifying windows.

If you’re owed a tax refund (since starting a business I can barely remember what a tax refund is), your refund will increase by $200.  So, if your refund would have been $3,000 it will now be $3,200 if you purchased qualifying windows.

What if I already purchased windows?

If they meet the Energy Star requirements and you’ve purchased them in the last few years you’re eligible for the same credits.

What documents do I need?

You do not need to submit anything with your taxes.  You just let them know how much you spent on the windows and you get the credit.  It might be a smart idea to keep a copy of your invoice and the manufacturers certification statement in your files just in case you need to prove anything one day.

What if I used this tax credit last year?

If you’ve used a tax credit for any energy efficient home improvement in the past you probably cannot add this credit to that one.  You get one shot whether you use it for new windows, a new furnace or one of those fancy tankless hot water heaters (I just got one of those bad boys, endless hot water, I love it).

Should I ask a tax professional if I have questions about this?

Yes.  I’m a window person not a tax advisor.  This is the best info I have based on my experience.  Please don’t email me saying I cost you tax money.  Call your tax preparer with any questions.

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

Are Foam Filled Windows Better?

One of the more common questions that we here in the Milwaukee area, is regarding foam filled windows. Are they actually better?  Is the upgrade worth the money? Which type of foam is better, injected or push-in? The answer like many things in life of course is… It depends.

Are foam filled windows better?
Here are two different types of foam filled windows. Is one better than the other? Check the U-Factor.

Foam Filled Windows have benefits

Foam filled windows will provide some benefits across the board, the debate really comes down to how much of a benefit, and is it worth the added expense. My first recommendation to replacement window shoppers is to check how this option affects the U factor of the window. Some foam filled windows will have a U factor that improves by 2+ points, others will not budge at all. There are a variety of factors for this, most notably in the design of the extrusion(the “inner-framing” of the window).  Windows that have many chambers will often see less impact on U factor, because those dead air spaces actually do a decent job of insulating. This is not necessarily reflective of product quality, it is just a different means to an end.  That said, the primary benefits to foam filled windows will be superior thermal performance (measured by U factor and condensation resistance), as well as a little bit of extra structural stability. It could be be conceivable to improve sound transmittance as well, however the impact here is probably negligible in most cases.

Types of Foam Filled Windows

The two common methods to foam fill windows are injected foam, where spray foam is actually injected into the extrusion, and push in foam, where expanded polystyrene is cut and pushed in. Despite what sales people may tell you, both are effective methods when executed properly, and each does have its own minor pros and cons.  Injected foam is generally higher density, and therefore a better insulator.  This advantage is somewhat mitigated however by the fact that these are pretty small spaces, so the actual increase in R factor is minimal. The downside of injected is that spraying foam can produces air pockets and inconsistent fill. Push in foam eliminates that potential issue, however this type of foam must be cut to exacting tolerances where it provides a tight fit in the chamber to be effective. The manufacturers that do this right, have CNC machines that cut the foam precisely to fit.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, the option for foam filled windows is better, however the value of it depends on the price vs performance increase. This is generally a pretty inexpensive option, so it does make sense in many cases. The one thing to keep in mind, is that when comparing two different products, the type or even presence of foam filling does not necessarily make that product better than the other. A precisely designed and manufactured unit will be the better option, with or without foam.

Brandon Erdmann is the owner of HomeSealed Exteriors in Milwaukee, WI.  He’s a window installation expert, a supporter of this site and an all around great guy.  If you’re in the Milwaukee area and you’re thinking about new windows you should give Brandon a ring.  You’ll be glad you did.

How Much Should Replacement Windows Cost?

Homeowners often come to this site looking for advice for specific models of replacement windows, recommendations on a local window installation company or advice on how to avoid these sales tactics. One of the most common questions asked is (of course) all about the money: how much should replacement windows cost?

To answer this question, you’ll have to look at a few things to compare apples to apples… or windows 🙂 by answering three basic questions:

  • What style of windows are you wanting installed?
  • What make and model of window are you choosing?
  • What material is the window made of?

What style of windows are you wanting installed?

First, the most commonly used window is a double hung window. They’re versatile, beautiful and easy to clean. Though double hung vinyl windows can vary widely in cost, look to spend between $450 (basic double pane energy star rated) to $600 or $700 for double hung windows installed with all the bells and whistles (triple pane, reinforced frames/sashes, double strength glass, foam filling etc).

double hung replacement windows
Here are some beautiful double hung windows that were recently installed by Zen windows in Central PA.

Next, casement windows (aka “crank out” style windows) and awning windows are a bit more expensive than a standard double hung windows mentioned above. Although casement windows tend to be more efficient than double hung windows, look to spend a bit more per window .

Bay and bow windows tend to be the most expensive. A quality vinyl bay or bow should range from $4,000 – $6,000 depending on options, colors, sizes and styles. Some bays and bows do not need a roof installed because they are under awnings and can be installed into the soffit. If a roof is required, that will add to the cost.

What make and model of replacement window are you choosing?

Though we won’t spend a ton of time discussing different makes and models of windows since you can check out dozens of them here, there are a few basics to consider when considering a replacement windows cost structure.

Ask yourself:

-Am I paying for a quality window from a reputable manufacturer or am I paying for an expensive marketing campaign?

-Has this company been manufacturing windows for a long time and do they run the risk of going out of business (and therefore will not have any warranty?) You may even want to ask if the manufacturer is a debt-free company.

-Am I paying hundreds of extra dollars per window simply for a brand name or could I get an equal quality (or better) quality window from another reputable manufacturer?  (think about when you’ve chosen a generic prescription at the pharmacy rather than an expensive brand name) 

What material is the window made of?

Finally, the cost of your replacement windows can also hinge largely on the type of material you choose.

Expect to pay more for wood windows, composite windows and windows with cladding of different materials.

Other legitimate factors that can cause the price of your windows to go up are:

  • If your home was built prior to 1978. Due to EPA guidelines, companies that work on homes build before 1978 are required to be certified. There are added charges associated with the installations.
  • A window that is one color on the interior and a different color on the exterior substantially increases the price. Though beautiful, expect these charges to increase the cost of your project from $100-$200 per window.
  • Some companies have a surcharge for any work that is completed above two stories. Though my company doesn’t charge this fee,  other companies do.
  • Even reputable companies often have minimum orders they will accept to install usually ranging between 2 to 5 window minimum orders. If you are under than minimum order, you may be charged slightly extra so be sure to ask to avoid these charges.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post! We welcome your comments and will do our best to get back to you with any questions you may have!

Andrew Zahn is the owner of Zen Windows in Central, PA.   Andrew has worked in home improvement sales, marketing and public relations before opening his own window company.  If you’re in central PA and you’re thinking about new windows you should reach out to Andrew.  He’ll be the easiest window company you’ve ever dealt with.