The Sales Pitch

What dealers need to know about selling energy-efficient products
By Mark Montgomery, Ply Gem Windows
October 16, 2016
FEATURE ARTICLE
In a recent study, remodelers reported that 78 percent of their customers would pay more for a green home. (Image courtesy of Ply Gem.)

On the front line of sales and marketing, window dealers are a crucial partner to product manufacturers and trade professionals. As the movement toward greener living continues to influence homeowners and manufacturers alike, it’s no surprise that the most successful dealers are those who are educated and up-to-date on the latest codes, trends, performance requirements and even misconceptions.

According to a recent study on green and healthier homes conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics in partnership with the National Association of Home Builders, remodelers reported that, in 2015, 78 percent of their customers would pay more for a green home, and 69 percent of home builders said their customers would do the same. In the same study, builders and remodelers reported that 81 percent of their customers considered windows that exceed code-mandated energy performance a top priority for their green homes.

However, when it comes to energy-efficient windows, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. In my experience, industry education and awareness on the topic of energy efficiency is one of the greatest assets in staying ahead of the competition.

There are three categories dealers can focus on to guide customers toward selecting the right energy-efficient window for their project: industry regulations, tax credit misconceptions and homeowners’ comfort.

Industry Regulations

Standards from the National Fenestration Rating Council and Energy Star are often cited, but seldom completely understood. Dealers should know how to read a NFRC window label and be able to explain or demonstrate the industry requirements and regulations to customers.

One of the latest changes is from Energy Star, which recently introduced new requirements for the northern climate zone that affect the glass packages suitable for that region. Now, to qualify for Energy Star V6, energy performance ratings are less universal and prescriptive for each of the four Energy Star zones, matching performance to needs based on the various climates.

Many manufacturers, including Ply Gem, offer solutions designed specifically for each of the four Energy Star zones, typically offering different glass options that meet (or surpass) the specific requirements for each zone.

Tax Credit Misconceptions

When the federal tax credit was introduced in 2009, a national “standard” of a 0.30 U-value and 0.30 Solar Heat Gain Coefficient became synonymous with energy-efficient windows for all climate zones. Those standards were a good baseline for milder parts of the country but, in very cold or very hot climates, this one- track approach did not have much impact on energy savings and comfort.

The 2009/2010 tax credit for energy-efficient windows has long expired, so dealers should be knowledgeable about other rebates in their area. For instance, Congress reinstated the tax credit for window purchases made in 2015 (and will extend through the end of 2016). For all Energy Star windows sold, homeowners are eligible for a tax credit of 10 percent of the cost for up to $200 on window purchases and $500 on door purchases.

When working with homeowners in selecting the right energy-efficient window or door package, understand your local utility rebates or credits available for using energy-efficient products. A database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency is available at dsireusa.org.

Homeowner Comfort

Industry and climate standards should be used as a guide, but individual homeowners may have personal requirements to make their home more comfortable. A homeowner may request a large bank of windows facing due south that may need more solar control than the rest of the home, for example. By understanding determinants such as U-values, dealers will be able to provide solutions that satisfy such specific requests.

Dealers can look to manufacturers that offer educational programs about their products for this knowledge. Moreover, dealers can help to debunk the new trend known as “greenwashing,” where homes that are for sale are deceptively marketed as being energy efficient.

Armed with education and the facts, dealers can create more knowledgeable, happier homeowners, while helping to lower energy use and reduce ecological footprints.

As senior vice president of marketing, Mark Montgomery leads product management, brand communication and channel development for the Ply Gem Windows Group and its new construction and replacement product lines. Montgomery joined Ply Gem in 2004 and has served in various sales and marketing management roles within the company.