DOE Issues Draft Requirements for R-5 Window Volume Purchase Program

October 29, 2009

The Department of Energy has issued a final draft of its specifications outlining the minimum requirements for manufacturer participation in its Highly Insulating (R-5) Window and Low-e Storm Window Volume Purchase Program. The initiative, in which DOE works to identify and organize a potential buyer base in both the public and private sector, is designed to help commercialize such products.

The DOE draft calls for U-factors of .20 or less for fixed windows and .22 or less for operable units.  Additionally, it calls for an air leakage rate of 0.10 cfm/ft² or less for fixed windows and 0.20 cfm/ft² or less for operable windows. The specifications also establish a 20 year warranty for the glass package and a 10 year warranty for the window. The document also outlines proposed certification requirements, sizing information and reporting requirements for participating manufacturers.

Products from manufacturers choosing to participate in the program and that meet the final requirements will be listed on the R-5 windows Web site for the potential buyer groups to choose from.

In a letter to interested parties, Terry Mapes of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, notes that "considerable effort being made by the volume purchase team to educate a variety of groups on the benefits of highly-efficient R-5 windows and the future availability of R-5 windows and low-e storm windows via this volume purchase. These groups include academia, local government, non-profits, weatherization and others."

The program is part of the Obama Administration's plans to accelerate the use of energy efficient technologies, as well as its economic stimulus efforts. Similar programs have been undertaken before by the government, notably in the arena of compact flourescent light bulbs. 

According to DOE, common Energy Star windows have an R-value of 3. Increasing the R-value from 3 to 5 reduces average heat loss through the windows by 40 percent and saves consumer money on energy bills. The principal barrier to widespread market commercialization of R-5 windows is cost. With the volume purchase program, DOE is looking to work with industry and potential buyers to achieve a price premium of $4/ft² compared to today's typical Energy Star windows.

With the release of the draft requirements, DOE is now inviting public comments on the draft requirements. Information on submissions is available on the R-5 volume purchase Web site. The deadline for comments is November 13, 2009.

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association is not only urging its members look at the program requirements and submit comments, it is also encouraging member manufacturers to get involved. "The DOE's window volume purchase program for R-5 and low-e storm windows provides window manufacturers with an attractive incentive to produce these highly-insulated products," says Rich Walker, AAMA CEO. "The majority of window manufacturers should consider submitting a proposal to be part of the program by the department's deadline of December 2009."