Energy Star Education
For many dealers across the country, getting up to speed on the Energy Star v6.0 specification will be among their New Year’s resolutions. As of January 1, 2015, manufacturers must use the v6.0 product specification when labeling products for the North-Central, South-Central, and/or Southern Climate Zones. Manufacturers may continue to use the v5.0 product specification for the Northern Zone until January 1, 2016. For dealers, the education of their sales teams—and customers—will be crucial to a successful transition.
Energy Star v6.0 will impact some dealers more than others, according to Scott Thurber, vice president of Associated Building Supply, Inc. “It depends on the business model, the target audience, and what niche you’re after,” he says. “It is probably much more important in the remodel/retrofit market than it is for specialty/high-end that sells product solutions based on aesthetics.”
Ted Kirk, president of North Georgia Replacement Windows, anticipates his company will see an impact, and that it will be an overall positive one. NGRW services three different climate zones—the Southern, South-Central and North-Central Zones, which each require different products and respective sales training. Even though selling Energy Star rated windows will require more training, Kirk says it will distinguish the company from other dealers that compete on price rather than the quality and efficiency of the windows they sell. “I think this will further separate us in the area that we try to target. We try to take the educational approach and this lends itself to fit well with that business model,” he says.
Joe Guarino, president and CEO of window and door manufacturer Sunrise Windows agrees that the v6.0 requirements help set apart product lines, explaining that Energy Star is “an opportunity for vinyl windows to have even more differentiation from the competitive set.”
This differentiation factor seems to be a resounding benefit of the program. “Soft-Lite and its customers are promoting a more energy efficient product to consumers. This has allowed our [dealers] not only to be different in the marketplace, but also to pass along some extra value to customers,” says Tyson Schwartz, vice president of sales and marketing, Soft-Lite Windows.
There’s no question that the new Energy Star criteria will affect consumers, building professionals, architects, and window and door dealers, among others. But in order for it to be a positive effect, dealers and manufacturers alike cite one important factor: education. This trickles all the way down the supply chain, from manufacturers to dealers to homeowners.
“Manufacturers give you tools and horse power when it comes time to talk energy,” Thurber says of his suppliers. For example, he says that Jeld-Wen’s architectural consultants put on training seminars and, “from a marketing standpoint, they provide a lot of materials.”
Soft-Lite, which earned the designation of National Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2014, implemented online training that educates dealers about the program, as well as allows dealers to become Energy Star certified. “We also have some new pieces of literature that go through the Energy Star program,” Schwartz reports.
Sunrise Windows’ approach to educating homeowners on Energy Star—and helping dealers to do so—is to communicate in terms they understand. “It’s important that the homeowner understands the whole story: how the various performance and decorative options come together on a window to create the product that allows them to make a personal statement in their home,” Guarino says.
This concept culminates in the “Design Your View” function on the company’s website. “The idea is that the homeowner can select the region he or she is in, and then pick the windows that fit the Energy Star criteria within that region,” Guarino explains. “But it’s also based on aesthetics; the amount of clarity in the glass.”
Dealers that view the opportunity in Energy Star also recognize the commitment it takes to adapt their sales pitches and keep them up-todate. At NGRW, Kirk holds weekly meetings with all staff, including production, administration and sales, and dedicates a portion of the meetings to these types of issues so the entire team can better communicate with customers. “We are very fortunate to have a very educated labor force,” he says.
Kirk says that the sales team currently talks about U-factor and solar heat gain in sales presentations, but he recognizes that they “may need to spend more time talking about air leakage, which is an important new qualification that will be labeled with the new Energy Star program.”
Identifying what the sales team needs to communicate to customers is a big project, but there is payoff for those who take the time. As Thurber points out, “Sales people that are good at keeping up with all of the latest technology and innovations, and who stay on top of it, bring a tremendous amount of value to the consumer.”
This new version of Energy Star is more stringent, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “They’re going in the right direction, lowering the numbers to make it a more legitimate program,” Kirk believes. “In the past, there might have been some windows that were questionable in terms of efficiency because maybe they didn’t seal up as tight or they just barely met the guidelines.”
Schwartz echoes this sentiment. “Moving forward, Energy Star is going to continue evolving. I see Energy Star becoming more energy specific and focused. The EPA will continue increasing the energy standards and, in the future, the Energy Star label will be on the most energy efficient products—maybe only the top 10 percent,” he says. “Energy Star really wants to make sure that when you see an ES label, it really means something.”