Working with DOE on R-5
September 27, 2010
COLUMN : Another View | Codes & Standards, Energy Efficiency
In May, the Department of Energy launched the R-5 Window Volume Purchase Program with great fanfare. Under this program, homeowners and property owners would learn the value of R-5 energy efficiency and get the benefit of fixed and clear pricing on R-5 qualified windows. With some trepidation, we at Haddon Windows & Doors entered the program to be one of the inaugural certified vendors. While the level of manufacturer participation in the program was a positive surprise to DOE, homeowner and buyer participation has been lacking.
The reason is that DOE’s good intentions of generating a market for super insulating windows were muddled by an execution confusing to buyers and frustrating to manufacturers. The manufacturer frustration was evident at the GlassBuild America event in Las Vegas.
At that event, an open discussion between manufacturers and a DOE representative turned testy when that representative pointed out that the lowest priced qualified product was $174. Surely, the manufacturer of a $174 triple-pane window with krypton gas could hardly afford to fly to Las Vegas. We didn’t hear from DOE that most of the windows ranged from $500 to $600 and topped out at nearly $900 (based on my research). DOE, in its zeal to promote R-5 amongst homeowners, decided that price was the sole secondary consideration when selecting an R-5 window.
Clearly, all of us working hard to differentiate our products in this insanely competitive market were slightly annoyed that differentiation was reduced to two elements: the R-5 checkbox and price.
At Haddon, we are big fans of pushing the envelope of affordable energy efficiency. We’ve turned our company toward improving the energy efficiency of our products. Investments in energy efficiency have a triple bottom line–benefits for homeowners with reduced energy costs, benefits for our climate with reduced carbon footprint and benefits for our nation overall.
We are all in, but the current R-5 VPP will not drive the R-5 window sales DOE promises or wants. There is still time, however. DOE needs to actively solicit a constructive working partnership with industry and better align interests. To start the dialog, I’ll kick off with four concrete suggestions:
- Shift the focus to generating massive homeowner awareness. R-5 should become the super level of Energy Star. If DOE can’t cooperate with the Environmental Protection Agency, the new program owner of Energy Star, then focus on R-5 as a standalone highly energy efficient program. R-5 is for people who truly care about super insulating and above products. In other words, spend our tax money on creating demand and awareness for R-5.
- Promote federal, state and local programs to support R-5 adoption. Tax credits, rebates, subsidies or any such programs that encourage R-5 adoption over Energy Star. Once the .30/.30 tax credit ends at the end of December, introduce a variety of easy-to-adopt programs and incentives.
- Drop the focus on price setting. Everyone knows that a $174 window and a $900 one are not likely to be interchangeable. The race to bottom on price does not serve homeowners and increases the pressure on an already unhealthy industry. Roughly 50 million windows are sold each year in this large, segmented and diverse market. This industry has shown it is quite capable of overly zealous competition to meet the varied needs, desires and price points of its customers. Let us sell the value of our products.
- Create a working partnership with industry to develop R-5 and beyond energy efficiency. Solicit input on how to make R-5 the new standard for homeowners. Offer support for R&D efforts by manufacturers. Establish a working group of manufacturers interested in creating, promoting, and driving penetration of super insulating windows.
With the right dialog, R-5 will quickly become a very important segment of the market in which homeowners, industry and government will be the winners. It’s time for us, in industry, to be working hand-in-hand with DOE.