Should DOE look at separate Energy Star labels for new construction and replacement products?

John G. Swanson
February 6, 2008
THE TALK...
The Talk, Page 2...

Survey Results for 02/06/2008:

Should DOE look at separate Energy Star labels for new construction and replacement products?

No

58%

Yes

42%


With the Department of Energy laying out plans for more stringent criteria for windows, doors and skylights to carry an Energy Star label, many in the industry, including the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and members of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, have asked DOE to consider a two-tier approach.

Looking at our poll results, many of you out there have reservations about two separate Energy Star labels for new construction and replacement products. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents to last week’s WDweekly poll said, no, DOE shouldn’t look at a two-pronged approach. About 40 percent say it’s an idea that’s worth exploring, however.

There is an argument to be made for two separate Energy Star labels when one looks at the two basic markets for windows and doors. In the new construction arena, code requirements are already translating into demands for highly-efficient windows and doors. With the Energy Star program designed to recognize the most efficient products out in the market, it makes sense for labeling requirements to “beat code.”

More stringent requirements, however, present a potential problem in the replacement business—where energy codes don’t necessarily come into play. If the criteria become more stringent—and force manufacturers to use a more expensive technology, such as triple-glazing—the price of an Energy Star window will go up. Will this discourage homeowners from replacing their old single-pane windows? Will they opt for something less energy-efficient than today’s current Energy Star products because they can’t afford what the government will identify as an energy efficient product?

“The idea is to save energy,” noted one vinyl window manufacturer. “There are still many homes that have single pane glass–even on homes built in the early to mid ‘90s. So if Energy Star labels are going to help the public, then the all or nothing approach that the DOE wants is not helping the consumer. A tiered level system will help consumers identify an energy efficient window that meets their budget,” he argues. “If you want to set a high standard that will be very costly, then the average consumer will forgo the energy saving window and just buy the low performing window.”

I received more emails from those opposed to the idea, however. Another vinyl window manufacturer points to the limited difference between products for the two markets. “Most of the time the only difference between the two types of products is a nail fin. Sash to frame relationships remain the same between the two types of windows and it basically comes down to the glazing make up being used.”

The fact that some manufacturers do make fairly similar new construction and replacement products could lead to some confusion in the market. One could foresee a manufacturer and/or dealer trying to sell an “Energy Star” window—one that meets the less stringent requirements created for the replacement market—in the new construction market.

Other respondents pointed to potential confusion in the market. “The idea of an Energy Star Label and an Energy Star Plus Label is a bad idea that just lends confusion to the entire program,” says one distributor. In highlighting the potential for confusion, he notes that some window manufacturers are already try to mislead consumers on numbers, “promoting deceptive center-of-glass U-values” rather than the full unit values determined. “DOE is on the correct path and should move forward as originally planned.”

“I think a two tier system is just another way to mislead and harm the consumer,” another respondent suggested. “ Let’s stand up for what is right and make windows that are good, not just cheap, so that people cannot make money by defrauding the ignorant and harm future generations who will have to pay for price for our waste today.”

Another respondent argued that it’s time to be more aggressive on the energy efficiency front as well. “We need to take a bigger step for the long haul to reduce the waste of energy,” he said. As an industry, it may be time for more “radical” thinking, he suggests, noting “this is the 21st century.”