When SIR Home Improvements was planning a Web site revamp that went live earlier this year, owner Frank Mumford told the designer his ultimate goal was "to save the world and save the polar bears." But when you visit that site, the main headline delivers a much more practical message: "Go Green. Save Green."

GREEN SMARTS: Frank Mumford, owner of SIR Home Improvements, knows what proper installation means to having eco-friendly homes. Photo: Tom Gennara Schoolcraft, Mich.-based SIR is one of several installed sales operations at LBMs nationwide that uses green construction's emphasis on saving energy to sell itself. If trends hold out, Mumford will have an even stronger argument to make in the future as green experts begin to focus as much on proper installation of products as they do on the products themselves.

Sadly, there's no lack of examples of bad installation. Recently, SIR did a project that included removing eight windows another company put in two years earlier. When SIR's team pulled the windows, it found several had no insulation around them.

More than 95% of homes suffer from insulation shortcomings, air leakage problems, or other deficiencies that cause a home to use more energy than necessary, says Sam Rashkin, director of Energy Star for Homes, a Department of Energy program that the Environmental Protection Agency administers. Installed sales operations that can prove they know what they're doing not only have a powerful argument to make about the products they sell, but they also can cite the value of hiring someone who knows how to get the most out of that product.

A number of dealers already know enough about green to be able to tout their products' benefits. For instance, when Schmidt Siding president Dale Brenke discusses the steel roofing materials his company promotes, he passionately describes their benefits: longevity (as much as 100 years) and the fact that steel roofing can be recycled rather than dumped into a landfill.

Mans Lumber and Millwork recently participated in a green street fair and was happy to tout that the composite decking it displayed consisted in part of 18,000 recycled plastic bags, says Peter Mans, owner of the Canton, Mich., dealer.

In all these cases, the spiraling cost of energy, an economy that shows few signs of a near-term rebound, and a continuing debate over the extent of global warming seem to be lining up in favor of green business strategies that installed sales operations have developed.

"A lot of this is so new that we're doing it without any direction," says Mumford, "but I believe it will bring us more business in the future."