Can Better Windows Help Save the World?
October 1, 2007
FEATURE ARTICLE | Energy Efficiency, Markets & Trends
When it comes to business today...consumers today...selling today...everything is coming down to a single color: Green. Building greener homes is catching on at a spectacular pace. Homeowners are looking for more and more ways to make their surroundings and living space environmentally friendly by choosing green products. This green movement is the result of a combination of factors: global warming, the rising costs of energy and consumer desire to help make a difference and reverse these trends. And better windows truly can make that difference for consumers, in helping them be more environmentally friendly and providing real dollar savings.
Before getting down to the positive affect improved windows can have on the environment, let’s take a look at the big picture. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, evidence shows the 20th century as the warmest in the last 1,000 years with the most rapid warming occurring over the past 20 years. The 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the single warmest year of the past millennium. The biggest cause of global warming is the carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels like oil and coal are burned for energy. If greenhouse gases—such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane and nitrous oxide—continue to increase, says the EPA, the average temperature at Earth’s surface could rise between 2.5°F to 10.4°F above 1990 levels by the end of the 21st century. Such seemingly modest increases as these are predicted to have significant consequences on the environment.
Pundits and politicians may differ about specific approaches to curb global warming, but more and more people are embracing the need to address the environment and looking at how our lifestyles affect it. In February 2007, MarketResearch.com reported that 36 million consumers—12 percent of the U.S. population—embrace the green market, in which $230 billion is spent on what are considered sustainable products and services.
So what does this mean to the window industry? It means there is a real and growing desire among consumers for environmentally friendly building products. Once thought of as simply a high-priced luxury with a price tag that outweighed any immediate cost savings benefits, sustainable building products, including windows, are now being sought out and purchased by increasing numbers of consumers acting on their environmental principles.
The green movement is affording us in the window business with a real opportunity to appeal to customers looking for window solutions that not only meet their needs today but also deliver hope for tomorrow. Here are just a few of the things we have to tell them:
Windows can account for between 10 and 25 percent of the total energy consumption for the heating and cooling of an average home (consisting of 2,000 square feet of living space and 300 square feet of windows). Installing the most energy-efficient window available can greatly reduce energy consumption, the carbon footprint of the home (eco-language for the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels required to produce the energy to heat and cool a structure) and the amount of money required to keep the home comfortable.
Recent improvements in nearly all window components, including low-E glass, warm edge spacers and more efficient insulating frames, can improve window thermal performance by as much as 45 percent. As manufacturers adopt more high-performance glazing techniques, warm edge window spacers become even more important in reducing overall U-factors and decreasing energy loss and potential condensation with its related health risks.
Beyond the actual thermal performance of the window itself, environmentally friendly windows can help reduce a home’s peak heating and cooling loads. Peak loads are the maximum energy loads required for heating or cooling a house within a specific time period. Insulating glass windows reduce the house’s heating and cooling needs by performing more efficiently and achieving more consistent internal temperatures despite wide variations in outside temperatures. Not only do these windows reduce the energy draw at the home, they also help reduce the demand required by the electrical utility at peak times. Given the amount of brownouts and blackouts of the last few years, the ability to help lessen utility demand can be a persuasive selling point for green consumers.
While environmental activists continue to debate with their opponents about the reality or lack thereof of global warming, the middle ground is rapidly growing as awareness of the environment in general takes a greater role in these individuals’ lives. According to the research firm Iconoculture, mainstream “greenies” not only expect innovative new products that slip right into their existing lifestyles, but they also expect more convenience, better price points, higher style and better performance from green products.
Recognizing these demands, and the growing concern among our end customers about the planet and in what condition they leave it for their children and their children’s children, we have a chance to show how, indeed, today’s high-performance windows can truly help save the world.
Ric Jackson is director of marketing & business development for Truseal Technologies Inc. The company, based in Solon, Ohio, reports it is the largest supplier of insulating glass spacer systems in the world. It’s product line includes Duralite and Insuledge edge seal products, as well as a variety of other IG components and sealants. More information is available at www.truseal.com.
Cite These World-Saving Stats
When it comes to reasons window buyers should consider high-performance windows, try offering some of these compelling arguments:
- The difference between the performance of cold edge spacers and the best warm edge spacers is an approximate 0.4 U-value, or a difference of approximately 1,600 pounds of CO2 per home per year. This also translates into as much as $205 in heating energy costs, not to mention less condensation and a more comfortable living space. Results modeled using Resfen 5.0 and converted to CO2 based on conversion data from www.eia.doe.gov energy calculator.
- Given that windows have an average lifespan of 20 years, this means a reduction in the environment of nearly 16 tons of CO2 production over the life of that window system (extrapolated from calculation above).
- If every home in America had the most efficient warm edge spacers, it would reduce the amount of CO2 in the environment by more than 56 million tons a year (extrapolated from calculation above).
- If just every new window installed had the most efficient warm edge spacer, the environment would be spared three million tons of CO2 a year (extrapolated from calculation above).
- Because it takes three trees to absorb one ton of CO2, it would take nine million trees just to absorb the CO2 produced by one year’s worth of inefficient windows (three trees for one ton of CO2 is taken from Climate Change Calculator on www.americanforests.org).
- Using the same calculations, the difference between the old standard windows and today’s high performance products is even more dramatic. A typical 2,000-square-foot home with 300 square feet of windows featuring double-glazed clear glass, standard spacers and no argon will produce 5.3 tons more of CO2 per year, compared to the high performance windows featuring the best warm edge spacer, low-E glass and argon gas. A single-glazed window with clear glass will require 8.8 tons more of energy-related CO2 production to heat and cool the home annually.