Our 1970's-vintage house always seemed a bit too welcoming when howling winter winds swept up Colorado's foothills. Each year, the annual road show staged by Jack Frost and his Chillers would take center stage in our home despite our best efforts to keep these rowdies at bay.
There were plenty of reasons why this happened. Instead of playing the role of picky bouncers, our doors acted more like enthused Middle School kids at a Justin Bieber concert, welcoming the arctic Canadian travelers though gaps in the doorjambs and frames. The leaky windows were no better, taking up the rattling chorus and forcing us to crank up our thermostat. I'm surprised someone from our utility company wasn't outside selling custom "It's Cool to be Cold" T-shirts for this expensive draft-a-palooza.
Last year, our family decided to cancel our subscription to this expensive performance. We knew that heating costs can run about a third of a typical annual energy bill—and we were tired of paying a premium during the period from November to March. So we found a contractor familiar with the energy efficiency strategies on the Energy Savers website. Together, we selected three new energy-efficient doors and seven windows which were Energy Star compliant, meaning that they qualified for federal tax credits. Our contractor carefully installed the upgrades, and the change was noticeable. Once he replaced the warped sliding porch doors with a snugly-fitted set, out dining room candles no longer flickered in the breeze, and soup didn't need reheating mid-bowl. Finally, there was a hot energy-efficient ensemble performing nightly. Not only did we applaud the federal tax credits, we thrilled as our heating bills dropped.
Because we upgraded with energy-efficient doors and windows in our house, we no longer need to use toe warmers and Cindi Lauper-style fingerless gloves at dinner during winters in Colorado.
This winter, we're expecting an encore. And you can enjoy this too if you act soon because the federal tax credit expires on December 31 for Energy Star-qualified windows and doors. The incentive makes a good thing even better. The federal tax credits amount to 10% of the cost of the energy efficiency upgrades, up to $500 for a lifetime, with rebates for windows are capped at $200. There are restrictions: the cost of installation doesn't apply, and work must be in an existing home that is your principal residence. (Sorry, no rentals). For products placed in service in 2011, you'll need to file the 2011 version of IRS Form 5695 and submit it with your 2011 taxes. But long before that, you'll be cheering the benefits of energy efficiency you've orchestrated. See the Energy Savers seasonal guide and be prepared to enjoy a new seasonal hit that swings. It's bound to be more pleasing than the seasonal shock-rock provided by Jack and company.
Ernie Tucker is editor of the weekly EERE Network News newsletter and a member of NREL's Communication Office who believes cold is a four-letter word.