Sometimes, I wonder if ductwork is the Rodney Dangerfield of the HVAC system. At least that’s how I felt after talking to officials with Carlisle HVAC for a recent article on tax incentives for sealing ductwork.

While other products that boost the energy efficiency of homes and buildings — windows, doors and even HVAC systems — are often mentioned by home improvement experts as a great way to save on utility bills through upgrading, sealing ductwork is often left out.

And while there are plenty of rebate programs and tax incentives for many of those products, similar benefits for sealing ductwork are lacking or at least difficult to find.

Tim Eorgan, Carlisle HVAC’s specified products manager, said utility companies and lawmakers are more likely to craft incentive programs around higher-profile improvements, such as new furnaces or compressors.

“I’m guessing they must go for the low-hanging fruit of working in conjunction with fiberglass insulation companies or the big equipment manufacturers such Trane or Carrier,” Eorgan told me. “It just hasn’t gotten that level of awareness yet.” 

That was reflected in my search results when I looked online for more information on duct sealing and incentives.

The U.S. government’s EnergyStar program website, a veritable clearinghouse for information on ways to save energy, doesn’t have much about the topic. While it acknowledges that energy is lost through leaking ductwork (that’s good) and says sealing and insulating them can boost efficiency by up to 20 percent (even better), it also tells visitors that the Internal Revenue Service “hasn’t issued any guidance” as to whether such work qualifies for tax credits. 

Another attempt by EnergyStar on the website to clear up the confusion isn’t much help: “But only the materials would be eligible for the tax credit,” the site says. “And the labor is the primary cost of sealing ducts.”

That doesn’t mean that incentives aren’t out there. At www.dsireusa.org, a few local and state programs that encourage duct sealing are found, if you look hard enough.

And that’s part of the problem, as Frank Forrest, Carlisle HVAC’s efficiency solutions product manager, told me.

“The big thing we find with these types of programs is they’re offered out there, but they’re typically lumped in with a ton of other kinds of efficiency technologies,” Forrest said. “So I think the duct- and air-sealing side of life is kind of buried… lumped in with tankless water heaters, caulking and weather stripping and air conditioners and heat pumps and furnaces.”

 Realizing that HVAC construction contractors also need to promote duct sealing, Carlisle HVAC offers classes on the need for duct sealing through its Carlisle HVAC authorized applicator training program (details are here). The courses include tips on how to explain the process and the expected savings to home and building owners, Forrest said. It also discusses the profits available to companies that offer the service. 

So what about your region? Are duct sealing incentives growing in popularity? Are more homeowners and business owners expressing interest in this underrepresented service?