Early reports suggest the federal government's stimulus package has sparked renewed interest among some customers to buy energy-efficient windows and doors, install more insulation, and improve their roofs. In this special section, we explore three key dealer-related sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and how they could help give your business an extra jolt.

For the purposes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a homeowner can get tax credits for buying roofing materials treated with coatings or cooling granules specifically designed to reduce heat gain. Both metal roofing and asphalt shingles qualify. Materials must be "placed in service" between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010, and must be expected to last for at least five years. All eligible products must meet Energy Star requirements for roofing materials. Many Energy Star roofing materials in the metal and asphalt categories qualify.

That's the good news for roofing contractors and the dealers who supply them. And given the competition among the trades to get people to choose tax credit-eligible products, roofing contractors are finding that proactively educating customers on cost-saving opportunities is essential.

"Jobs are often coming in because homeowners have a problem with their roof," says Bill Wade, president of Affordable Roofing in Aurora, Ill. "They don't know that the credits are available, so we have to educate them, while we're looking at the job, that they can get a tax credit if they're willing to make an upgrade." Wade's colleague Ron Pugmire, who manages the blog RoofInfo.com, adds, "the early bird catches the worm here. Whoever gets to the consumer first wins the prize of getting them the credit. Once the credit is tapped out, you lose it as a bargaining chip in future sales."

Selling the Opportunity

Contractor Mike Conte agrees. Conte Remodelers in Marion, Ohio, installs windows and siding, and handles other major remodeling projects in addition to roof installations. His company uses print ads and fliers, as well as a page on its website, to dispense information and drive traffic at home and garden shows. He thinks some remodelers may hesitate to discuss tax credit-eligible products for cost reasons. Cool shingles, for instance, will cost more than standard shingles, thereby increasing the price of a roof and potentially turning off a customer.

"We're finding that's not true," Conte says. "Our presentation to a new client lasts about 90 minutes and includes a lot of information about the different levels of product quality that are available. When it comes to the Energy Star products, we tell [homeowners] it will typically add $3,000 to the price, but that Uncle Sam will pay for half of it, and with the energy savings, they're likely to see the rest of their return within four years. Over time, the upgrade comes at no cost."

A Reason to Re-Roof

In addition to homeowners seeing the opportunities with roofing tax credits, Conte says that his sales staff is equally eager to discuss the topic. "Roofing is not normally a luxurious job to talk about," he says. "This has excited our salesforce because we have something fun and exciting to talk about with our customers."

Manufacturers are also enthusiastic, since ARRA may inspire homeowners to upgrade their roofs because they want to, not because they have to.

"The new stimulus package and corresponding tax credits will help make consumers more aware of both the economical and environmental benefits of incorporating energy-efficient building materials into their home'

s exterior," says Edward Thomas, vice president and general manager of Follansbee, a metal roofing firm in West Virginia.

ARRA calls out asphalt shingles and metal roofs as being eligible for federal tax credits. Rolled roofing materials such as TPO membranes, though they often exhibit cool-roof features, are not included. Many manufacturers and roofing industry associations view this exclusion as an oversight. However, state or municipal tax credits may be available for these products, so dealers should check with their local governments and utilities to learn what's available.

–Lauren Hunter is associate editor of Remodeling.