A round the country this winter, consumers are getting hammered with double-digit increases in the cost of natural gas and heating oil. Along with the energy savings tax credit effective Jan. 1 of this year, that could mean a lot of opportunity for window replacement contractors.

“They still look for a variety of benefits, not just energy savings,” notes Brian Elias, president of Hanson's Windows & Siding, Madison Heights, Mich. “But that concern is becoming more prevalent as the bills get bigger.”

That's true elsewhere as well. “A while ago the number one reason [for buying replacement windows] was aesthetics,” says Larry Summer, a partner in K & H Windows and Exteriors in the Denver suburb of Arvada. But, “energy efficiency is becoming number one, especially as the cold spells hit,” Summer says.

Avoid Over Promising With energy savings the hot button, contractors, naturally enough, want to push it with aggressive claims about just how much energy, and cash, new replacement windows can save homeowners. But well-established companies avoid pie-in-the-sky promises. “We try to be conservative,” Summer says. “We don't want to put out numbers that are not attainable.”

Summer and Elias use third-party evidence to support claims of energy-efficiency. The local energy company says that replacement windows can save consumers 10% to 40% on their energy bills, so those are the figures Hanson's uses. “But we don't give any type of guarantee on that,” Elias says. Summer uses copies of magazine and newspaper articles about energy saving as “third-party endorsement” in window sales presentations.

Manufacturer Claims Manufacturers generally don't make specific energy-saving claims, even as they tout the energy efficiency of their products. Many contractors follow their lead.

“The first thing I say is that all our windows are Energy Star rated, which means they are at minimum 40% more energy efficient than the building code requires,” explains Bill Howes, sales rep at Renewal by Andersen of Northern Ohio. “We're leery of saying an exact number because we don't know [the homeowner's] lifestyle. Potential savings depends to some extent on the type and the condition of the windows being replaced, he says,

Energy Star, however, does provide energy-savings specifics for the “typical” home at www.energystar.gov. The data are broken down by region and by type of window being replaced.