A stimulus program for replacement windows and doors…
Survey Results for 11/19/2008:
A stimulus program for replacement windows and doors...
...is not needed and would only waste tax dollars.
...is needed and the industry should lobby for it.
...might be beneficial, but is not worth a lobbying effort.
This week’s poll results reflect what I’ve long known about the window and door industry. The general preference of most executives is to keep the government out of our business—even if the government could do some things that might be beneficial. Nearly half our respondents this week indicated they see no need for a stimulus program for replacement windows.
In fact, I was somewhat surprised that nearly 40 percent of our respondents this week thought the idea of a stimulus initiative—whether it be a bigger tax credit or low-interest loans—is an idea with some merit. In my years covering the industry, most lobbying efforts I’ve seen have focused on reducing the burden of codes or legislation. I’ve never seen much enthusiasm for encouraging the government or regulatory bodies to do something that could help our business.
I certainly didn’t think of the idea for a replacement window stimulus program in a vacuum, however. During many of the discussions I’ve heard related to changes in the Energy Star program criteria, one of the more constant refrains I hear is that it would “do a lot more good” as far as energy efficiency, if that program could somehow encourage more people to replace old, single-pane windows with today’s high performance technology.
In fact, in their latest joint letter to DOE offering feedback on the Energy Star program, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association raise the point again. They do not, however, offer any specific recommendations on how DOE might actually stimulate more replacement window demand.
Apparently, there are some people pushing such ideas. Howard Vine, a partner with Dickstein Shapiro LLP in Washington, D.C., wrote to tell me that "Yes," his firm is working to see more government action that would support energy efficient windows. Specifically, he reports, he is registered to lobby on behalf of EverSealed Windows—a company working to develop vacuum glazing technology. “So much of energy policy is based on ‘supply side’ production and alternative fuels,” Vine states. “Government policy makers miss the 'low hanging fruit' of how a more efficient and reliable window can save upwards of 4 percent of all energy. Consider the disparity in DOE funding of R&D. It was only two years ago, they spoke of the hydrogen economy as the next lunar program; then corn and ethanol; then coal to liquids; then, then, then,” he continues. “Yet the pay-back from an efficient window is real and substantial.”
Vine suggests that Washington could be receptive to an industry message, pointing to interest in efficient windows already within DOE and even scattered interest among some legislators. But, he adds, a more concerted effort by the industry to promote the potential of its products for saving energy would be needed to make bigger changes that might target windows and doors.
Josiah D. Waxman, an analyst with Ducker Worldwide, the company that performs window and door market research on behalf of AAMA and WDMA, suggests our industry needs broader government action related to housing, rather than any industry-specific stimulus. “I think instead of a bailout to the replacement window industry what’s necessary is a stabilization of the real estate market. The government gave blank checks to the banks to basically hoard the cash, while little is being done from a bottom-up perspective to stem foreclosures and stimulate demand in the housing market,” Waxman writes. “More needs to be done to stem the supply of foreclosures flooding the market and stimulate demand for homes. If you can’t sell a house, you’re not going to buy a house. If your house is worth x% less than last year, you’re not going to make a $10,000+ investment in new windows. The type of program that could help the window industry top to bottom is to extend the tax incentives that are currently only for first time homebuyers to all qualified homebuyers who now can’t afford a home because the same banks the governments infused with cash are not lending it without 25% down. Once homes start moving, remodeling will pick up.”
Waxman is certainly correct in suggesting that the housing and mortgage problems need to be addressed. I agree with his observation that few homeowners will invest in windows and doors if they see the value of their home continuing to drop.
I still can’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t be looking for more. One side of me fears more bureaucracy and wasted tax dollars, but another side of me knows many other industries are going to be in line asking for their share. When I went to Washington for DOE’s Energy Star meeting this past summer, I recall the Metro trains were plastered with ads promoting the idea of more federal funding the solar industry—because of the jobs it creates and the fact that it can make America more energy independent. The window and door industry can make the same arguments. Maybe we should get in line.