Is R-5 a New Benchmark?

John G. Swanson
September 15, 2010
THE TALK... | Markets & Trends

R-5 is apparently now established as an industry benchmark. If I had any doubts, they disappeared walking the floor of GlassBuild America yesterday. "R-5" appeared in exhibitor displays and a handful of manufacturers I spoke with indicated they were at the show at least in part to review their R-5 options. (An interesting story in itself is the sudden emergence of double-pane R-5 alternatives.  Conventional wisdom, not too long ago, was that triple-glazing would be required.)

Back in April, when DOE launched its R-5 program, only a quarter of the respondents to our weekly poll said it would have significant impact on the industry. My sense, however, is that it's already happening. I don't know if companies are actually selling windows through the DOE volume purchase program, but the existence of the program appears to be transforming the market.

So, we'll use this week's poll to see if that's true. More importantly, I'd like to hear from you.  I'd be interested to hear, in particular, from participants in the volume purchase program.  Are you seeing direct sales as a result?  What about other R-5 product sales? Are they there?  Are they growing?  And, if you're not selling R-5, that's okay.  I'd like to hear from you too.  Are you biding your time?  Post your comment below, or if you prefer, email me and share your thoughts. 

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Survey Results as of 09/21/2010:

What's your company's status on R-5 products?

We don't foresee offering R-5 products.





We are waiting until R-5 becomes established as part of Energy Star or some other standard.





We already offer R-5 products.





We are looking to introduce R-5 products soon.





John also writes:

Our respondents are split fairly evenly on R-5 products.  Half don't foresee offering R-5 products, while the other half either offer them or expect to in the not too distant future.  That says to me that R-5 is a new benchmark.

Will it apply to everyone? No. One simple reason many of our respondents said they don't foresee offering R-5 products is geography.  Manufacturers, distributors and dealers in Florida, Texas, Southern California, and other areas with mild climates are not likely to face see such requirements.

Virtually everyone I spoke with at GlassBuild, however, expects R-5 to be part of the next round of Energy Star criteria for at least the Northern climate zone.  Some also foresee the requirements becoming more stringent than the current .22 U-value that earns operating windows the "R-5" label under the current DOE program. 


As with the computer industry we are almost ready to position our R8 window available in Germany for many years. While we are further improving the spacer system we may realize better than the Uw of 0.13 and 0.12 we currently achieve after testing. The government is behind an R5 measure and many of the consumers are purchasing anticoagulated R3 technology. By 2012 R10 should be achievable with no more than argon used in our R5, R6 and R8 windows.

R5 should be the minimum for EnergyStar, or any below should be classified as EnergyHogs and the purchasers should pay an Energy Tax as with purchasing a car with inferior fuel usage- like that purple GTO I almost bought just a few years ago.

With the market being as tight as it currently is and homeowners not making buying decisions as they once did, coupled with those who do buy are seemingly going for the lowest price offered with little consideration given to quality and performance, I couldn't imagine the R-5 program having great success.

Hopefully I'm wrong, but my point is that most homeowners are buying the cheapest windows that barely meet the tax credit program, usually offered by the bait n switch companies out there, so I forsee great hesitance in them buying a much more expensive window in the R-5 product. I believe that a great deal of marketing outlining the benefits, including payback and savings information to homeonwers will have to preceed this program for it to take off.  What are the chances that the DOE will sponsor such marketing?


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