We Should Get Smarter
Window & Door recently reached out to a number of people in the industry for an upcoming article looking at the impact of recent steps taken by the Federal Trade Commission designed to end the use of "exaggerated and unsupported claims" related to the energy-savings potential of windows. Gary Delman of Sunrise Windows in Michigan shared the following insights. We thought they would be appreciated by many, and as a result, we decided to present his response as a guest blog this week.
To make a random statement to all homeowners that they are going to save a specific amount of money by replacing their windows is a practice that has no place in our industry. We—all of us in the industry—shouldn't be doing this in our sales and marketing efforts.
I do not know enough about the specifics to debate the Federal Trade Commission’s recent action against several replacement window companies. I do have a concern, however, about the way all of us—manufacturers and retailers—will react to this ruling.
Are we all going to "hunker down" and never make another statement about the energy and money saving benefits of replacement windows? I hope not. We shouldn't over react; we should get smarter.
For example, the Efficient Windows Collaborative website presents data on annual heating and cooling costs for homes. The data is based on analysis provided by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and by clearly stating assumptions made regarding home size, window-to-floor area, window elevation, window framing material and glazing system, actual city specific cost of gas and electricity, they are able to project what the annual heating and cooling costs will be for the same home with different window and glazing selections.
Interestingly enough, when I look at the data that LBNL presents—a home in Madison, Wis., with double glazed clear glass and metal frames (sounds like an old window that needs to be replaced) would result in annual heating and cooling costs of approximately $1,720. That same home, with a triple pane, high solar gain Low E glass, argon/krypton mix and a non-metal thermally-improved frame, would see annual heating and cooling costs reduced to $1,140. That's a $580 annual savings or 33 percent.
I can point to another example for Fort Worth, Texas. Utilizing a glazing system more appropriate for the south, LBL calculated that a home's annual heating and cooling costs would go from $880 with a single glazed clear metal window down to $450. That's a 49 percent reduction.
Now, I know these are models, and not specifically derived from actual installations, and I know we all need to do a better job collecting data from actual installations, but this is a pretty powerful endorsement of the savings that properly configured replacement windows can provide.
Not to be sarcastic, but Lawrence Berkley National Laboratories is providing this data. Who is LBNL? According to its website, "Berkeley Lab is a member of the national laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science.” It also notes "savings as a result of Berkeley Lab developments in lighting and windows, and other energy efficient technologies, have also been in the billions of dollars."
That sends a clear message to me that we, as an industry, should not overreact to the FTC ruling. What we are doing in manufacturing some of this country's most energy efficient energy saving products should be cheered; we just all need to get a little smarter as to how we accumulate specific data like this and professionally present information like this to homeowners.
Let's face it; in order to understand what the potential energy savings are, we need to understand such things as what city the consumer lives in, how large their home is, what type of windows they currently have in their home, what the orientation of those windows are, what the window to floor ratio is, how they heat and cool their home, what the cost of gas is, and what type of window they plan to utilize in the replacement process. And once we have a better understanding of these facts, then we should be able to more accurately quantify potential energy savings that a consumer could gain.
Will the FTC ruling hurt our sales? Only if we let it.