Steve Platt, also known as The Storm Door Guy, installs nothing but storm doors in his Twin Cities market. Platt once offered a broad selection of storm doors on his website, Now he offers just two. Both, he assumes, are eligible for a tax credit of 30% of the purchase price of the door, exclusive of installation, under the terms of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But is he right?

That depends on who you ask. Right now, there’s confusion about whether or not storm doors and storm windows qualify for tax credits under the ARRA. Here’s why: Some storm doors and storm windows did qualify for tax credits available under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That legislation limited the total tax credit for homeowners to $500 and included a $200 subcap for windows, including storm windows.

After it was passed, the Internal Revenue Service issued a guidance document that specified the circumstances under which storm windows and storm doors qualified for tax credits under the act. It spelled out that if, together, the storm window and the primary window met International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) prescriptive criteria for one of eight climate zones, the product qualified as eligible for a tax credit.

For instance, if a storm window fitted with clear glass was installed over a vinyl window with low-E coating and argon gas insulation, it qualified in zones 4 through 8 and manufacturers who could prove it were entitled to say so. Since neither storm doors nor storm windows are National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) certified, it was up to manufacturers to test and certify their products as qualifying. To claim the credit, homeowners must have that certification in writing. Many companies did and still do supply it.

With storm doors, the IRS specified that the storm door, in combination with the primary door, should not exceed IECC default factor requirements. What that means, for example, is that homeowners who install a storm door over a highly energy-efficient primary door — say a fiberglass entry door — are not eligible for a tax credit on that product because installing a storm door will do little or nothing to enhance its energy efficiency. On the other hand, install it over an old, leaky door, and the storm door is now in the running for tax credits since, even if fitted with a single pane of clear glass — which most storm doors and storm windows are — it makes that door efficient by creating an air pocket that contains the heat loss.

“The overall energy efficiency of the combination is dependent on both parts,” Jeff Lowinski, vice president for advocacy and technical services of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, points out. So you, the homeowner, could claim a tax credit on that storm door.

Does or Doesn’t?

Or at least you could have claimed a credit in 2006 and 2007. Right now, informed opinion about whether or not storm windows and doors qualify varies. The reason is primarily because the IRS has yet to issue similar guidance. And that’s leaving manufacturers and their customers in a quandary.

In April, Harvey Goodman, president of Bonded Insulated Products, a Long Island manufacturer that makes storm products, tried to call the IRS, looking for some clear answers. He wanted to know, particularly, if storm doors still qualified if installed over fiberglass doors. “I couldn’t get through,” Goodman says.

Some manufacturers believe that IRS rules for qualifying storm doors and storm windows will come sometime later this year, and they advise dealers and contractors that, in the meantime, they can assume that if the products qualified in 2006 and 2007, they’ll qualify under the 2009 legislation. “Our counsel on this is that if you would have met [the qualifications] in 2005, they do qualify,” says D.S. Berenson, of Johanson Berenson LLP, a Washington law firm specializing in legal issues involving the home improvement industry. “We think that’s a safe interpretation.”

On the other hand, Mark Mikkelson, Andersen Corp.’s manager of code and regulatory issues, says that “until the IRS issues a new guidance to the new 2009/2010 tax credit, we will not know whether or not storm windows or storm doors will remain an eligible energy improvement … [or] what the eligibility requirements will be.” Mikkelson argues that because the new 0.30/0.30 regulations made it more difficult for windows and doors to qualify, there’s a good chance that the qualifying criteria for storm doors and windows may be ramped up as well.

Berenson says that the recent decision extending until June 1 the period when an Energy Star rating on a window or door qualified it for tax credits indicates that the IRS is moving toward increased flexibility rather than stringency. The new guidance should be posted at when it is available.

Fenestration Attachments

Still confused? So are other people. Some of the confusion arises because when it comes to tax credits and fenestration products, windows and doors have received all the attention. That most have an energy-efficiency rating certified by the NFRC makes it relatively easy to set qualifying criteria and to determine whether or not they meet it.

Not so with storm doors and storm windows, which aren’t classified as fenestration products but as “fenestration attachments.” Even where manufacturers have tested and rated the storm doors and windows they make, the NFRC hasn’t certified those ratings. No storm door or window has an NFRC label.

But the organization is working toward a ratings procedure for storm doors and storm windows and has gotten as far as assembling a team of manufacturer members to work on a ratings system. In the meantime, says Nils Petermann, project manager of the Efficient Windows Collaborative, in Washington, D.C., “manufacturers are left to their own devices” when it comes to establishing an efficiency standard for storm products.

So, until the IRS weighs in, contractors selling storm doors and windows who want to play it safe are advised to provide homeowners with a certification statement from the manufacturer and to tell homeowners that the storm doors or windows that they’re installing are eligible for tax credits at least until June 1, and possibly for the remainder of the year and all of next.

To be doubly safe, indicate in contract language that homeowners need to check with a tax consultant before actually claiming credits on storm doors or windows.