Score for Specialty Dealers

Christina Lewellen
February 14, 2009
COLUMN : Talking to Dealers | Energy Efficiency

Window and door companies have been living in “energy efficiency land” for decades. I type “energy efficient” so many times in a month I might as well set a quick key function on my keyboard. Energy efficiency to us is like texting to teenagers—it’s in our blood, it’s what we do, it’s how we communicate with our BFFs.

Well, snap, snap, people—look alive. The Obama administration is pointing at us. Maybe not directly, but I think we’re all recognizing that we’ve hit a wall in terms of energy consumption. We’ve got to cut back, and it looks like our new President is going to sit on us to be more responsible consumers.
Maybe I’m just desperate for a reason to be optimistic these days, but I’m guessing this renewed focus on reducing energy consumption and upgrading our country’s aging infrastructure—which includes housing—could be a huge score for window and door specialty dealers.

Get this: Building new green homes with all sorts of fancy energy-efficient technology and appliances “won’t make a dent in overall energy consumption,” according to a press release the National Association of Home Builders issued following a panel discussion that took place at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

Did you catch that? Let me say it again. Building green is the least of our worries (though still a worthy endeavor). These panelists say we need to retrofit green in order to pack a much more significant punch.

Let’s be a bit more specific. One of the panelists, Mike Hodgson, president of California-based energy consulting company ConSol, spoke of a survey conducted last year by the California Homebuilding Foundation. That initiative revealed that 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions stemming from single-family home envelope energy consumption can be blamed on houses built before 1983.
Retrofitting existing housing can help combat the fact that, according to federal energy officials’ estimates, Americans consume about 21 percent of the energy produced each year to heat, cool and run their homes.

“We obviously can’t solve the problem by tearing down all our inefficient housing stock and replacing it with new,” said panelist Ray Tonjes, chair of the NAHB Green Building subcommittee and an Austin, Texas, builder. “We need to make some significant improvements to our existing homes.”

Score two points for specialty window and door dealers who offer replacement products.
Now I understand the reality that home equity lenders have yet to thaw and homeowners in general are too nervous make big financial commitments. But just walk with me for a minute as I make a point about planting seeds for the future. Eventually money will start flowing in this economy again, but with my following examples, I’m wondering if much of it will make its way to our industry. We’ve got to shake off the doldrums, people!

I live in New York State. To see what my state has to say about energy efficiency, particularly with an emphasis on retrofitting existing homes, I surfed over to On the left-hand side of the homepage, there’s a menu item called “Energy Efficient Products.” Score! Let’s go over there and see what that has to say about windows and doors. The answer: Nothing. Zip. Windows and doors are not listed as a category of energy efficient products. Are you kidding me? I can learn about retrofitting appliances, electronics, heating and cooling products, home office equipment and lighting, but not about energy efficient replacement windows and doors.

If you’re a replacement window and door dealer conducting business in New York State, I suggest you put a phone call to state officials on your to-do list. Am I the only one who thinks it’s crazy that long-life light bulbs get more “face time” with consumers than Energy Star windows and doors?

Another score for replacement dealers is the extension of the tax credit for window and door purchases when the products are “placed into service” during the 2009 calendar year. Granted, the credits aren’t much--$200 toward a qualifying window replacement job or $500 toward a qualifying door replacement job—but I wouldn’t mind if someone handed me a coupon to save $200 on my taxes for a project I would have done anyway.

So I did a mental scan of the country and visited the Web sites of 10 successful specialty dealers I’ve visited or profiled in the last few years. I was originally going to spy on 20 but I saw the writing on the wall once I approached number five or six. Not a single company from coast-to-coast gives up any Web space to promote the extension of the energy efficiency tax credit. I don’t get it. Someone please send me an email and tell me why you’re not promoting savings for your customers that don’t affect your bottom line?

No doubt, many of us have walked out of the last 18 months battered and bruised. But the spotlight may again turn to the window and door industry shortly and I certainly hope it doesn’t catch us with our heads down, crying in our Cheerios. Please touch base with me to let me know what your company is doing to help consumers get onto the energy efficiency bandwagon. Are you lobbying for your spot alongside appliance retailers? Are you promoting the tax credit the Federal Government is offering in 2009?

And seriously, that New York State Web site thing is bugging me. Someone better connected than I needs to make a phone call so we can all sleep better at night.



Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at