Roofing & Insulation
Credit Available 30% of cost (product only, no labor)
$1,500 maximum for all improvements combined
Timeline Must be "placed in service" (ready and available for use)
Jan. 1, 2009 – Dec. 31, 2010
Requirements
Metal & Asphalt Roofs Energy Star–qualified
Insulation Meets 2009 IECC & Amendments
Must be expected to last five years or have a two-year warranty
Primary purpose must be to insulate. As of May 31, 2009, IRS has not ruled on SIPs or insulated siding, but it is believed that SIPs are eligible
See summary chart: Stimulus at a Glance

Dollar for dollar, insulation and weatherization deliver more bang for their energy-efficiency buck than almost any home improvement (see chart, MarketWatch). Happily for manufacturers and installers, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s $1,500 tax credit can be applied, in theory, to a broad array of materials and methods — batts, spray foam, loose-fill; wraps, sealants, tapes, and flashing; even structural insulated panels — that are primarily designed to reduce the heat loss or gain of the nation’s estimated 80 million underinsulated homes.

On its surface, the insulation provision is simple: Homeowners can take a tax credit of 30% of the cost of materials only, to a maximum of $1,500, for insulation work performed this year and next. That’s triple the credit available since 2005. The sum of the resulting “insulation material used in layers” must meet the R-values prescribed by the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC).

“We think the recovery bill is a great opportunity to move forward” toward a more energy-efficient housing stock, says Gary Nieman, vice president of government policy initiatives at Owens Corning, feature one of several insulation manufacturers that were interviewed for this article.

Guardian Building Products’ “customer base has expressed heavy interest in several areas of the ARRA,” says Aaron Hock, national sales manager.

Code of Conduct

Things start to get sticky with the IECC. Published by the International Code Council (ICC) and based on goals set by the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2009 IECC will produce 15% in energy-efficiency gains over the 2006 version, according to the DOE. (To purchase the 2009 IECC, go to www.iccsafe.org.)

Regarding insulation, the 2009 IECC is considerably tougher than the previous version, particularly in colder parts of the country, where R-values (thermal resistance) are now as high as 21 for wood frame walls, 38 for floors, and 49 for ceilings and attics. “The new code requirements make it tough for builders to do things as usual and still meet the code,” says Bob Burgess, president of Accurate Insulation, in Upper Marlboro, Md., whose 65 installers work all over the mid-Atlantic region. This is especially true in remodeling, when insulation is sometimes compressed into small cavities, potentially compromising R-value.

Numerous products meet the specified R-values, including fiberglass and cotton batt insulation with ratings of R-21 or higher that can be installed in a 2x6-framed wall cavity, plus several loose-fill products using fiberglass, cellulose, or other materials that can be installed behind netting in open framing or used to fill cavities in existing walls.

Such products likely won’t be as inexpensive as the old mainstays, however, or necessarily prove as easy to find, at least based on a few calls to building supply retailers.

In some cases, in fact, meeting the prescribed R-values becomes almost cost-prohibitive. Ironically, it may even deter homeowners from choosing what many green remodeling advocates believe are the best (but most expensive) insulating products: water-based spray foams that expand to fill gaps and holes.

“They’re speaking batt language,” says Laura Calfayan of Calfayan Construction and AirTight SprayFoam of Southeastern PA, in Huntingdon Valley. “If I were to spray R-38, I’m literally forcing people to spend more than they need to,” she says, to achieve the same comfort effects that can be achieved with 2 inches of AirTight’s water-based, closed-cell foam, whose continuous air barrier reduces energy use beyond its stated R-value of 7 per inch.

Even so, business is up for spray foam companies. An Icynene product, for example, has a 3.7-per-inch R-value, allowing 2x6 walls insulated with it to meet the 2009 IECC in zones that require R-20.

By mid-April, downloads of the Icynene manufacturer’s certification statement (needed for tax documentation purposes) had risen by 68% since January, according to Teresa Crosato, the company’s marketing communications supervisor.

If homeowners must dig a bit deeper at the point of sale, that’s the price of progress, says Darren Meyers, technical director of energy programs with the ICC. “[The 2009 IECC] is a paradigm shift because the nation and the home-building community have not understood how far behind our construction practices are. We’ve never had a call to action [to be very energy efficient],” he says. The DOE’s goals, and the resulting code, are the call to action.