Will R-5 Window Program Transform the Market?

John G. Swanson
March 30, 2010
THE TALK... | Energy Efficiency

Survey Results as of 4/5/2010:

Do you think R-5 program will have an impact?

It will produce some change, but it will be slight.




No it won't have much impact.




Yes, it will change market significantly.




Two-thirds of our respondents think DOE's R-5 Window Program will have an impact, but judging my the written responses I received, I would say most don't think the impact will be positive. 

"In the free market, consumers and producers determined what might transform the market," wrote one reader. "The intrusion of the DOE into the glass market will not stimulate long-term growth."

"The market transformation that they are describing seems to be just another toehold for government control of industry," says another. "I believe that this is a niche program that is affordable only to large manufacturers, and can only be implemented by 'big box' stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot." 

A third respondent writes, "I do not know how many companies still make windows, but in '07 it was a $12 billion industry. I think that 50 manufacturers (assuming that they are all U.S. companies) is pathetic!  Like most government ideas, it will likely be overly bureaucratic and inefficient. It is just another way to justify big government expense."

But I also heard from Laura Doerger Roberts of Vinylmax Inc., who reports her company is one of the 50 that submitted a proposal.  "They were expecting between five and 20 program applicants, so they were enthusiastic about 53 proposals," she reports.  As for her own expectations, she notes, "I don't think the program will drive much volume from consumers, even though that is the program's stated intention. However, we already see HUD and other government-ponsored jobs requiring windows to meet the R-5 specifications.  From where I sit, being one of those 50 gives us an advantage when bids are being considered for those jobs."

Doerger-Roberts makes note of a problem a number of other industry people have suggested to me recently.  "I do find it a shame that there are so many different energy performance standards out there right now," she notes.  "Between the Energy Tax Credit, Energy Star, and now the R-5 program, manufacturers must spend a good deal of time chasing the numbers." 

Manufacturers not only have to chase the different government numbers, they have to explain them to consumers. "Energy Star windows" were once a fairly simple sell that have been trumped by "tax credit windows."  The R-5 label may muddy the waters further. 

That may be, but it may all come together some day.  Anyone who recalls DOE's "Phase II" Energy Star criteria floated in 2008 and 2009 knows the government was interested in products with R-5 performance numbers, at least for some climates.  Discussions of those "Phase II" criteria will begin again soon enough and many expect R-5 will be a part of those next generation Energy Star numbers.

There's another potential impact the R-5 program could have.  One I was a bit surprised nobody mentioned.  Could we see a move away from using U-factors in rating the thermal performance of windows?  Are we going to use R-values?  I just decided that should be a poll question itself.




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