Tom Silva checks out a double-hung window
Photo: Russell Kaye
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2. Exterior Windows and Doors

You'll pay: Qualified double-hung windows start about $200 per window; doors start about $300.

You'll save: Up to 20 to 30 percent on heating and cooling.

Why do it now? More often than not, drafty old windows and doors can be made airtight by weatherstripping. But if yours are in truly bad shape, or if your windows aren't double-paned, the credit is a good incentive for installing the most efficient models you can afford. "This is your one chance to really do it right," says Scheckel. Qualified products don't cost a whole lot more than less efficient ones, and you'll reap the benefits for years.

What to look for: Tougher efficiency standards went into effect in June 2009, so some Energy Star-labeled products may no longer qualify. Look for products with low-emissivity or "low-E" coatings, which keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer. Also consider doors with foam cores and double-paned windows filled with nontoxic gas, like argon or krypton, which increases their efficiency. Andersen's EcoExcel line of products has several good qualifying models, but the best choice depends on your climate and house; an auditor can walk you through all the options.

Bottom line: Replacement windows and doors should come after insulating and sealing air leaks but can still be a good move to shore up long-term savings and value.
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