Proposed Energy Star Facelift Offers New Options and Challenges

Rich Walker
April 9, 2010
COLUMN : Industry Watch | Codes & Standards

It appears that the other shoe in the Energy Star program for windows, doors and skylights as adopted in April 2009 is poised to drop. On the heels of the March 31, 2010 implementation deadline for transitioning to the newly upgraded requirements, the “Phase Two” tightening of criteria–originally slated for 2012 or 2013–is now folded into a more comprehensive and aggressive revamp of the Energy Star program.

The new initiative officially began September 30, 2009, with a memorandum of understanding on "Improving the Energy Efficiency of Products and Buildings" between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. In the new collaborative arrangement, EPA becomes the lead agency on the Energy Star program while DOE will be the lead agency on the National Building Rating program.

Following up on the memorandum, on December 2, 2009, DOE and EPA jointly issued the Enhanced Program Plan for Energy Star Products. Under the plan, the program will be enhanced in several ways, among them:

  • Product coverage will be expanded to include new consumer products with high energy-saving potential. Most of these involve computer-related equipment.
  • Energy Star becomes a two-tiered program, encompassing the existing scope of Energy Star aimed at a 25 percent or less market share and a top-tier – to be known as “Energy Super Star” or “Best in Class” – that covers approximately 5 percent of the top-performing products in a given category. EPA will be the “brand manager” for the Super Star program, determining performance levels and handling “marketing, education and outreach, partner relationships, program integrity functions (e.g., logo use and monitoring) and specification development.” DOE will provide technical support in the areas of test procedure and metric development.
  • Verification of compliance with program requirements will be increased. All products will be required to be tested in an accredited laboratory and qualifying product information submitted to the government before the product can be qualified as Energy Star. Certain products, including windows, doors and skylights would need to be verified by third-party organizations that administer ongoing verification testing in accredited laboratories meeting EPA/DOE criteria.
  • Revisions to Energy Star specifications will be undertaken more frequently, with an update for those governing windows, doors and skylights slated for 2010–significantly sooner than the 2012-2013 timeframe projected in 2009. Product shipment data for Energy Star-qualifying products will be monitored to determine which specifications warrant updating to stay within the target 25 percent market share. Specifications for “longer-lived product models” will be reviewed “at a minimum of every three years or once the market share for qualifying products reaches about 35 percent.”
  • Also, given that “poor installation is one of the major reasons for technician call-backs,” many product categories will be evaluated to determine the need for improved installation and maintenance procedures to ensure the full energy savings potential of the Energy Star-qualifying products is realized.

National Building Rating Program
The Energy Star label will be enhanced to identify top-performing, cost-effective buildings as well as products. To accomplish this, the National Building Rating Program will be enhanced, including offering the eligibility of buildings for the Energy Star logo.

Certification criteria, training programs, retrofit guidance documents and certification programs for contractors delivering whole building performance upgrades will be developed, as well as quality assurance / quality control requirements for assessing the quality of contractor retrofit work.

Other Stars
In addition to Energy Star, AAMA is also monitoring the developing requirements for the separate Home Star (a.k.a., “Cash for Caulkers”) and Building Star initiatives, now wending their way through Congress in the form of separate, stand-alone bills. These programs propose to offer rebates to homeowners and commercial building owners, respectively, for retrofitting existing structures with energy efficient improvements. Both programs involve third-party verification and strong standards and certifications for installation contractors.

AAMA supports both Home Star and Building Star as means to get more contractors back to work and spur production of qualified products at building component manufacturing plants. We will, however, remain watchful that their (as well as Energy Star’s) performance criteria, compliance timelines, standards and testing and certification protocols reflect real-world capability at a cost-benefit balance that will enable them to reach their goals.

Rich Walker is president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, 847/303-5664, rwalker@aamanet.org.