Should the Industry Push Back Against the FTC?

John G. Swanson
March 4, 2012
THE TALK... | Energy Efficiency

This week, the Window & Door Manufacturers Association is in Washington, D.C., with members making the industry's priorities known to legislators and regulators. The hot topics continue to be the Environmental Protection Agency's lead paint rules and tax credits for energy efficient products.

In contrast, the recent FTC action against five window companies has been greeted fairly quietly.  Perhaps, that's correct. We know there are window sellers out there that stretch the truth, and there needs to be limits. On the other hand, many of the advertising and marketing questioned by the FTC don't seem too far off from what the Department of Energy has said at times in the past.  DOE, in fact, has touted the payback potential of triple-glazing and R-5 windows more aggressively than many window and door executives.  

So I can't help but ask. Should we push back against the FTC? That's our poll question of the week. Of course, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the issue too. Did the FTC go too far? Should the industry be able to talk more about energy savings? Will our hands be tied as we try to sell high performance products? Or, is the agency right? Are there many companies out there that need to be reined in? Post a comment or email me and let me know what you think. 


Survey Results as of 03/12/2012:


Should the industry push back against the FTC?











Opinion is clearly mixed on this issue.  Our survey responses were fairly evenly divided, as were our comments below.

My own opinion is a bit mixed on the subject too.  I certainly don't like the idea of misleading homeowners with promises of huge energy savings that can't be delivered, but I'm also concerned about where the bar could be set on what we're allowed to say. 

We all know consumers want to know more than an NFRC U-value or an SHGC. They want to know why it's worthwhile to invest in replacement windows or why an Energy Star door is better than a non-Energy Star model.  "How much will these windows save on my energy bills?" is likely to be one of the first questions a homeowner is going to ask a window salesman.  

The FTC action means we all have to be a lot more careful in our answers. Maybe that's a good thing, but I also wonder if it will overcomplicate matters. Too many caveats can discourage buyers. We will see.

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The industry should regulate itself with independant testing criteria.  Whenever the government gets involved, the cost for the consumer skyrockets.  There is enough regulation in business already, and companies can be shut down for false advertising practices as it is already.  Pretty soon they will be making unreasonable demands on manufacturing and U and R values that will make windows unaffordable for everyone.  You can't come up with one example of government involvement that has ever made anything more efficient or affordable.  I can see the day when they levy taxes on every window sold to pay for windows for low income neighborhoods, and you will be required to install them for less, under the eye of some government know nothing inspector.  Come on, already.  Wake up and fight this nonsense.

What is the difference, really in U 0.20 and U 0.22?  Can it be felt?  Can it be actually measured in a home?  Are there not many factors in a home that compound energy loss?  Can we button up a home so tight that we are getting cancer from toxic air?  We should make excellent products and services, but at a certain point more money is wasted in regulations and nonsense that is gained by energy savings.   The highest numbers can be temporarily achieved in a window that 1 year later will be leaking like a sieve.  The government only makes costs higher and causes more red tape.  They will put small companies out of business that did a good job.  I cannot believe that opinion is divided.  Some companies see profits in having the government in their pocket, touting how their products meet government set energy numbers.  We can have regulation within the industry, and we don't need the EPA threatening someone who just wants to fix up their house.

Oh Boy- The frog continues to boil. If saving energy and the cost of that saved energy is not sufficient to justify the cost of the new windows and doors, why would anyone do it? As Paul Gary stated, this argument has been going on for decades. Is it true? Context!! Analyze the Remodeling Study for payback. Look at the charts on Even the DOE Energy Star website offers 15% annual savings.

If Low E, gas-filled, triple glazed, R-5 windows don't return financially justifiable energy savings, what's all this efficiency effort been about? The DOE, Energy Star, High Performance Windows Volume Purchase effort, EnergySmart Home scale (E-Scale), HERS Index are all after better fenestration performance. If it's not to be had, what have we been doing all these years? My question is: where is the industry advocacy?

The industry is acting too much like the travel industry that saw the slow elimination of the relevance of the travel agent, rather than an industry trying to preserve control over it's own products and services. When I started AWDI in 1989 and first published Window and Door Magazine in 1993, it was to create platforms for advocacy for proper installation and industry professionalism and proficiency. More voices were needed then and but even more so now. Where is the defense of our industry?

There are plenty of facts to show the FTC is, at minimum, over-reacting, and at worst just flat wrong. I could do it in 4 typewritten pages. Am I the only one? Plenty of participants talk about it. Many more complain. Everyone reacts, but they're too late. Look at Lead Safe! Do not let the FTC announcement go unchallenged. We had 30 days until another nail in the coffin is finalized. Even less now. 


Generally speaking I do not like government regulation and/or interference, but in this case I see no reason for the pushback.  99+% of the industry does not need FTC in their lives.  I put our company in that group; however, the 1% or so of bad apples need to be in check.  Claiming R-14 windows is ridiculous if you have a 3/4 Overall glass glazing pocket, but those 1%er's will make such claims.  I see no problem with the FTC mitigating such claims.


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