Is Your Company Still Talking R-5?

John G. Swanson
September 13, 2011
THE TALK... | Energy Efficiency

Walking the aisle of GlassBuild last year, one of the most common terms I heard and saw was "R-5." It hasn't disappeared completely at this year's show, but I am definitely hearing it much less. It's also not as evident in the displays of suppliers. Companies are still talking about energy performance, certainly. Gas-filling, triples, triple silver coatings. They're all still hot topics, but that one particular term has fallen out of favor.

It makes sense in many ways. The Department of Energy backed off the number a bit when it changed the name of its R-5 program to the "high performance volume purchase program" to open it up to more commercial window products. Having just one R-5 performance level also doesn't make sense for all the varied climates of the U.S. Still, I know a lot of manufacturers liked the simplicity of DOE's R-5 rating. It was something they could hang their hat on in their marketing.  

Is your company still promoting R-5? That's our poll question of the week, but I would like to hear from you too. Am I wrong? Is it still a semi-official standard? Do you wish R-5 was getting a bigger push? Are you happy it's not used as much? Are you waiting for something else? Maybe the next Energy Star or even an Energy Star Plus?  What would help your company sell high performance best? Post a comment or email me and let me know what you think. 


Survey Results for 09/14/2011 :

Is Your Company Still Promoting R-5 Products?

Yes, and it still works well for us.




We never started




Yes, but it isn't that important to us.




It was never applicable to our products




We did, but we have stopped.




Despite what I saw at GlassBuild, it appears that R-5 is still a popular benchmark within the industry.  I think Bob from Mathews Brothers raises a number of good points, below, however.  R-5 is one benchmark, but there are many out there right now. Some homeowners may look for triple-glazed windows to get high-performance, some may look for krypton. Some will gravitate to even higher R values.  

One development that will bring this issue to the forefront soon is the next set of criteria for the Energy Star windows program. A number of industry suppliers at GlassBuild suggested that at least some window and door manufacturers are waiting until they know what the new performance criteria will be before making any big investments in new systems. The Environmental Protection Agency had said it would issue draft criteria for 2013 by now, but has slowed down the process, a number of people reported.  No doubt once those numbers are set, many manufacturers will move to make sure their products meet them.

What also will be interesting to see is whether or not EPA will develop top-tier "Most Efficient" Energy Star ratings criteria for windows and doors, as it has done with some other products. Judging by the continued popularity of R-5, there is bound to be a sizable portion of the industry that would aim for those targets too.

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Hi John,

Good topic for conversation…

Our experience, since we officially introduced our entry into the so-called “R5 arena” has been mixed. While there are certainly people out there who are looking for the most highly energy efficient product they can buy, there is still a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Some are asking specifically for pricing on “the-triple-glazed-window-with-double-low e-and-krypton-window”, while others, the smaller population, are seeking a specific performance rating. We find that as opposed to traditional windows, we need to ask a lot more questions at the outset, usually starting with asking about what specific result they’re seeking to satisfy.

You see, while a lot of manufacturers are trying to meet these higher standards with their existing product lines (instead of investing a lot of money in a product line designed to meet the higher standards), they have had to trade off VLT and SHGC in order to meet a specific U (or R) value. We took the plunge and invested in the EnergyCore system by Quanex, so our framing costs are higher than the traditional systems, but the glass package is more consumer friendly with regard to visible light transmittance. Consequently, while both approaches are more costly than the standard fare, we believe that our system is more in keeping what consumers are accustomed to when looking out their homes.

We believe that this trend is not going to go away; indeed the DOE is still marching forward with pursuing their goal of an “R10 window” by 2020, with a zero energy home as the ultimate goal.

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