Associations Offer Initial Reaction to Energy Star

March 19, 2009

The window tax credit requirements established as part of the stimulus package remain at the top of the agenda, but leaders from the Window & Door Manufacturers Association and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association both report their organizations are now looking closely at the latest Energy Star criteria issued by the Department of Energy.

The initial reaction from WDMA members is that the latest criteria proposals contained "nothing shocking," says John Stoiber, WDMA president.  While feedback hasn't been gathered on all the specifics in the latest document, members are indicating that DOE took some positive steps in response to industry input on earlier drafts.  He points to the decision to stick to four climate zones--as there currently under Energy Star--rather than the five zones proposed in initial drafts.

"The initial reaction from a small sample of AAMA members is positive, but it is too early to formulate a consensus position," reports Rich Walker, AAMA CEO. "Those AAMA manufacturers who responded are relieved that the Energy Star criteria are a step in the right direction and encourage the selection and installation of energy efficient windows, doors and skylights."

While the newest Energy Star fenestration performance criteria are more compatible with the tax credit performance values in the 2009 ARRA, a small difference remains with the solar heat gain coefficient for the Southern region of the U.S, Walker continues. "This change still creates confusion, but at least it’s a step in right direction in that there aren’t separate criteria."

The 30/30 requirements for products to qualify for tax credits remain the top priority for both organizations.  WDMA has started a lobbying effort to get the requirements amended because members "don't believe the numbers are appropriate," Stoiber states. Energy Star criteria were developed over the years to maximize energy efficiency based on the needs of different climates around the country.  The new numbers "are not based on anything," he continues.

In addition, Stoiber points out, they don't make sense when it comes to the "essence of the bill," which was to stimulate the economy and create jobs.  The provisions eliminate too many products and therefore limit the number of manufacturers and workers that could benefit, he explains.

"AAMA has received an extraordinary amount of feedback in the last few weeks related to the new tax credit guidelines. The responses range from complete support to outrage," Walker notes. The majority of responses received, as well as the consensus of those members attending AAMA' recent annual conference in California favored an alignment with the fenestration criteria proposed by Energy Star late last year.  AAMA too is working to get the law changed as a result.

One notable change in the latest Energy Star draft is the decision to only put forward criteria for 2010.  Earlier DOE proposals included Phase 2 criteria, which would have gone into effect three or four years later. DOE now says it will begin work on a new set of Phase 2 criteria this year.  Walker indicates its too early to say whether that's a positive step, but he notes, the second round of changes "were extremely challenging and would have required significant investments in technology well beyond what is available today."  Many AAMA members were "concerned that the rate of technological breakthroughs and attendant investments would not be sustainable over the next few years," he continues.

The biggest disappointment with the latest Energy Star proposals is that "the release of this information followed the ARRA plan rather than leading it and that the numbers are different," Walker concludes. "The most consistent agreement heard from the AAMA membership is that Congress should have utilized the already in place, multi-billion dollar program, known as Energy Star."