Will Home Star be a Positive?

John G. Swanson
August 2, 2010
THE TALK... | Channels, Markets & Trends

Survey Results as of 08/06/2010:

What kind of impact will Home Star have on window and door industry?

Negative

  

 

55%

Minimal, if any

  

 

25%

Somewhat positive

  

 

11%

Very positive

  

 

9%

Home Star is heralded for attracting the support of both chemical companies and environmentalist groups. It's seen enjoying bipartisan support among Democrats and Republicans while most other programs are debated contentiously.  So Home Star's lack of popularity in the window and door segment comes as somewhat of a surprise. 

We are an industry that theoretically would benefit from Home Star and creating jobs, but only one in five of our respondents see it having a positive impact.  I said that was somewhat of a surprise, and I would explain that "somewhat" by pointing to the increasingly negative view of government that has emerged in the past two years.  Several readers offered such perspectives:

"Why would someone deeply involved with windows/homes not like a program that looks like it would help windows/homes? Because we are tired of paying for all of the programs that we have already and our national debt is out of control," one dealer writes. "Because we do not believe that these 'programs' are effective overall, especially in the long run. Because we feel that we already have enough extra costs and complexities of doing business just to try and play and/or stay in the game as a small business. Because who knows what the unintended costs would be of another government program. Because we are already in one of our worst recessions ever largely due to government programs."

"Government programs aren’t the answer. They always carry unnecessary baggage and expense," says another dealer. "We have seen how the government stimulus programs work over the past 18 months. Cash for clunkers, the home buyers' tax rebate and the appliance stimulus programs are the models which give us insight. There will probably be an increase in sales/spending during the program time frame with a large rush at the end. Everyone loves 'free' money. When the program ends business will show a significant drop and may fall below current levels. Stimulus programs simply don’t work to create lasting business. All they do is add to our already enormous national debt."

Some readers have more specific objections, however.

"The wood window industry has already been negatively effected by the .30/.30 stimulus plan and now this," notes one wood window manufacturer, alluding to the fact that Home Star as written would use the same criteria currently used for window tax credits. "The costs associated to meet these numbers is huge compared to the annual payback on energy savings. What I find interesting is current generation windows as a whole are very energy efficient! The real measure is, can the average American feel, notice or count the savings between a .33 and .30 window for every additional dollar spent? I say no and so does the data."

"Quite frankly, I’m offended by Home Star," writes Ralph Pagnucco, the owner of IHS Building Co. LLC in Michigan. "After serving this industry for over 30 years, if I want to take part in this program I have to take a class. Not so bad as I hold national certifications with NAHB, CGR, CSP, CGP and CAPS, but for the fact that it would cost almost $3,000 for the class and six days of my time. Seems like the only ones truly making out in this is the Building Performance Institute teaching the classes. If it were our government's true intention to save energy, they could have come up with a much better program than this; it was just aimed in the wrong direction for the benefit of a few."

Although supportive of the Home Star concept, the Window & Door Dealers Alliance recently sent a letter to three senators offering some specific objections.  It is urging its members to contact their senators to do the same.  WDDA, along with several other building industry groups, does not like the Senate version of the bill because contractors would be basically required to "loan" homeowners the rebate money and wait to get reimbursed.  It also objects to requiring contractors to be accredited by BPI. 

WDDA is not the only industry supporter of Home Star, it's worth noting.  The Window & Door Manufacturers Association and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association have also spoken favorably of the bill.  Looking at the results of this week's poll, Wayne Gorell, chairman and CEO of Gorell WIndows & DOors, responds he just doesn't understand how so many window and door industry people would have such a dim view of the program. 

"How can anyone think Home Star could be a negative for our industry?" he asks. "I will admit I'd rather see the government stay the heck away from business, but if they are going to intrude, I'd much rather them stimulate business than just pass more lead regulations. If the government is going to offer homeowners money to improve the energy efficiency of their homes it cannot have anything but a beneficial effect on our industry."

Gorell is skeptical whether Home Star legislation will be passed. "But if it did," he concludes, "it has to be a positive and we all need some positives with all the other new rules and regulations we have to try to understand and live with."