What's Next for Energy Star?

John G. Swanson
June 15, 2010
THE TALK... | Codes & Standards

Survey Results as of 06/21/2010:

What changes would bring the most bang for the buck in Energy Star criteria?

Air leakage requirements





Installation standards/requirements





A "Super Star" performance category





None of the above





R-5 performance levels (for North)





Structural performance minimums





Adjustments in SHGC requirements





Changes in door criteria





Changes in skylight/TDD criteria





Well, the votes are in, but not much response this week.  I know there are pleny of opinions regarding the next round of Energy Star criteria.  I suspect, at this point, those with strong feelings are opting to communicate directly with EPA. 

From my vantage point, I'm not surprised by the results to this week's poll.  Over the years, I've heard certain manufacturers grumble that air leakage performance should be a factor in qualifying for Energy Star.   There would be some disagreement on the best solution within Energy Star for assuring a quality installation, no doubt, but few disagree installation is key to successful performance.  The fact that those two issues ranked highest makes sense.

A 'Super Star' category would probably be welcomed by many in the industry, but EPA has brand concerns about a two-tiered approach to Energy Star.  A second designation for a higher level of performance may be worth considering for window and door industry products, however. 

The government sees Energy Star as a catalyst for continued product development to push the performance envelope.  The label is supposed to go on the top 25 percent of products in a market.  If that ever was the case for windows and doors, it hasn't been for a long time.  With energy performance such a key criteria for homeowners in the window and door selection process, many consumers see Energy Star as a minimum performance level. 

The label does not so much say "top performer," I suspect. It says to consumers, "the government says this is a good energy efficient product."  EPA naturally wants to set the bar higher. Unfortunately, the technology to do that significantly may raise costs higher too.  In 2015, a dual-glazed, low-E window offering a .30/.30 performance may not deserve "top performer" status.  Still, it's likely such a product would represent a significant upgrade over the existing window in the hole. 

But if the Energy Star product of 2015 costs significantly more than the .30/.30 product–more in fact than the homeowner can afford–what happens?  Does the consumer opt for a much lower performing product than the .30/.30 window?  A two-tiered Energy Star system would provide a way to communicate to consumers that "this is a good, energy efficient product," as well as a way to tell consumers, "this is one of the most energy efficient products you can buy." 






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