Is a potential $1,500 tax credit incentive enough to induce someone to invest $50,000 or $100,000 or $150,000 in a significant remodeling project?

Probably not. That’s why many full-service remodeling companies dismiss the Recovery Act’s tax credit for energy-efficient home improvements as too insignificant to bother promoting. At least a few, however, see the credit as a toe in the doorway to bigger projects. Or, to extend the metaphor, a leg up over the competition.

Shawn Nelson, of New Spaces, in Minneapolis, discusses the tax credit with small-project clients (average job: $6,000) as well as design/build clients (average job: $120,000+). He speculates that it’s not tax credit savings that steer the sale to his company, but the simple fact that his team takes the time to discuss the credits. “The client can get the same tax credit working with any other contractor," Nelson says, "but did those contractors bring it up or provide the necessary documentation?”

Aiming to take advantage of the tax credit through 2010, when most will expire, Nelson also plans to promote it via webinar, e-newsletters, and energy audits that will become a standard part of his company’s services.

And just because the Recovery Act media buzz has died down, don’t stop discussing its benefits, says Maurice Forde of Forde Windows & Remodeling, in Northbrook, Ill. “Homeowners will forget. We need to keep reminding them that [the tax credits is] available.” He reserves mentioning the up-to-$1,500 savings until the end of the sales process, often generating a “Wow!” response that seals the deal.

Beyond discussion, Forde’s company packages tax credit documentation for clients: the manufacturer’s statement, his contract, and items such as window stickers. It’s “a nice service” for clients, he says, adding, "And I don’t want them all calling me at the end of the year.”

Home energy audits are also turning into useful transitions between tax credit work and larger remodeling jobs. Alure Home Improvements, on Long Island, N.Y., has been promoting tax credits since 2006, when the maximum benefit was 10% of cost, up to $500. Now at least six of its service lines are eligible for the larger credit, including air-sealing, windows, and roofing, a fact that sales staff reiterate even to kitchen and bath clients, says Seth Selesnow, marketing director.

Alure also does energy audits and sometimes “throws in” a free audit with sold projects. Audit results further underscore the benefits of tax credit-eligible work, as do additional local incentives that sometimes yield rebates of as much as 75% of total remediation costs, Selesnow says.

And in Charlotte, N.C., Duane Johns of Advanced Renovations recently realized that his new audit program is “a great service to wrap in to the front end of our design/build services.” Offering the audits, he believes, gave his company “the upper hand in a few of the recent projects we closed on.”

As with Alure, Advanced Renovations also keeps current on state and local incentive programs that can further sweeten the energy-efficiency pot. “As a remodeler, you need to know the facts on all of these incentives so that you can relay it clearly to your clients,” Johns says.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.