DOE Updates Northeast Manufacturers on Plans for Energy Star Revisions

Atlantic City, N.J.—The Department of Energy is waiting to see what happens at the February International Code Council hearings before issuing its plans for revisions to Energy Star criteria for windows. Speaking at the Northeast Window & Door Association winter meeting here in January, Richard Karney, DOE’s Energy Star program manager, explained that an important goal for Energy Star is to be “better than code,” and right now, it is still uncertain how stringent revisions to the 2009 International Codes will be for windows, doors and skylights.

DOE’s Richard Karney explained to NWDA members that in order to drive continued technological development, three sets of increasingly stringent criteria for Energy Star windows, going into effect in 2009, 2012 and 2015, will be issued.

Karney did share some of DOE’s plans for Energy Star, however, including a change from four to five climate zones. Trying to better align with International Energy Conservation Code climate maps, the new Energy Star map would also divide the current Northern zone into two separate zones.

Overall, Karney suggested, the changes will include substantially lower U-values in the Northern zones and substantially lower solar heat gain coefficients in the Southern zones. Other possibilities include SHGC requirements in Northern climates that would encourage greater capture of winter solar gain. DOE is also considering expanding the use of alternative performance criteria, specifically SHGC/U-value trade-off options now only in place in the Southernmost climate zones.

Other changes still under consideration, Karney reported, include separate criteria for (opaque) entry doors, requirements for certified insulating glass units and inclusion of air leakage resistance minimums.

Emphasizing DOE’s goal to make Energy Star a driver of technology, Karney also said that current plans are to establish new criteria to go in effect in 2009, and more stringent criteria still in 2012 and 2015. Window and door manufacturers, he suggested, should be able to meet 2009 criteria using existing technology, but more advanced technologies, such as electrochromic glazing, might be needed to hit the 2015 numbers.

Right now, DOE plans to issue its revised Energy Star criteria for windows, doors and skylights by the first week of March, Karney concluded. A stakeholder meeting is scheduled for March 26 in Washington to allow feedback, with the final criteria expected to be determined in May. After the final numbers are determined, window and door manufacturers will be given at least nine months before the new Energy Star criteria take effect.

Also on the agenda at the NWDA meeting was Mike Fischer, code consultant for the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. Offering a broader overview of energy code changes, he suggested, “performance level wars” are likely to continue to ratchet up requirements. Pointing to LEED and a number of state initiatives, he said that private, state and federal programs will continue to emerge that seek to differentiate “efficient buildings” from “code compliant” ones. As is happening with Energy Star, the bar is being raised and code officials are responding by saying, “Why not change code?”

Nils Petermann of the Efficient Windows Collaborative was also on the agenda, focusing on how manufacturers might be able to capitalize on utility incentive programs using new technology. He pointed to a number of utilities, particularly in the Northwest, where homeowners can get rebates when buying upgraded replacement windows, but noted there might even be more opportunities in low-E storm windows, which can be very cost effective upgrades.

Petermann suggested there is some hesitance among utilities to offer rebates for windows, because they are costly compared to other energy upgrades and there is fear of “free ridership”--customers getting the rebates who would have bought the products anyway. Looking beyond energy performance to the whole issue of green was Cheryl Baldwin of Green Seal Inc., which does third party certification of green products. Demand for green is growing, Baldwin noted, and beyond that, we’re seeing an economic shift. “Companies that address environmental and climate change concerns are now seen among the best investments out there.”

Marketers should take a holistic approach, encompassing both the product and company, in selling green, suggested Green Seal’s Cheryl Baldwin.

Among her general advice for NWDA members interested in selling green is to take “a more holistic approach that includes both the product and the company.” She also urged manufacturers not to “greenwash” noting that it will not only hurt the company, but can give a whole industry a black eye. Information provided in marketing should be appropriate for the product, accurate, verifiable and informative to the consumer. As an example, she noted, if you say something is “recyclable,” you need to explain how so. Third party programs, she noted, play an important role not only increasing the credibility of a specific green product claim, but demonstrating a company’s overall commitment.

The panel of speakers helped NWDA attract increased attendance at the winter meeting, noted Bill Donnelly of Silver Line Windows, current NWDA president. Noting that the association also enjoyed a growth year in membership, he suggested that “perhaps it’s a good sign” for the window business.

NWDA’s next meeting is scheduled for July 14-15 at the Crystal Springs Resort in Hamburg, N.J. More information is available at