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Give Me My Tax Credit! (Or, How I Almost Bought the Wrong Patio Door)

July 28, 2009 - 5:00am


Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have been shopping for a new patio door. We currently have a sliding glass door that we have always hated—full exposure to winds from the west and to open fields behind our house mean that we always have dirt and dust getting in through that door, not to mention cold air in the winter and heat in the summer. The final straw was a warped and squeaky track, no doubt aggravated by our dog's constant indecision over whether he wants to be inside or outside (oh, the dilemma!).

Since sliding glass doors are known to be inefficient (and ours was already driving us crazy), we decided that a door that swings, rather than slides, is our best bet. Here are the other features we want in a door:

  • Glass, so we can enjoy our gorgeous view of the mountains. Because glass doors are less efficient, we are looking for energy-efficient features such as low-e coatings and gas fills to help control heat transfer through the glass
  • Can be tightly weatherstripped to keep air and dirt from blowing through the house
  • Can handle the wear-and-tear of frequent use
  • Meets the efficiency requirements for a federal tax credit—the U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient both need to be equal to or less than 0.30.

We also decided that we wanted both sides of the door to swing open. Our hope is that the extra-wide opening will allow even more breeze to blow through in the evening, keeping our cooling costs down.

We familiarized ourselves with ENERGY STAR's purchasing tips, checked for rebates and state, local, and utility incentives that we might be eligible for, and started shopping with our list of requirements in hand.

After a bit of looking, we narrowed our choice to two doors. Oddly, the manufacturer of one of the doors couldn't confirm for certain that we could upgrade the door so it would meet the requirements for a federal tax credit.

Lesson learned: before you buy anything, make sure that the manufacturer can give you a certification statement stating that the product qualifies for the federal tax credits for energy efficiency. In the case of windows and doors, not all ENERGY STAR products will qualify; and with an available credit of 30% of the cost (up to $1,500), you don't want to find out too late that your purchase isn't eligible for the credit!

We are still doing some research and making our final decisions, but this has definitely been a learning process. And once we decide on a door, we aren't done yet. We then have to find some energy-efficient (and nice looking) window treatments. The fun never stops at our house!

Have you made any large energy-efficient purchases? Share your decision-making process in the comments.