Energy Star 7.0 Is Here. One Company Has Been Waiting for Decades.

October 24th, 2023 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

Monday marks a new starting point for the Energy Star program, after a long-anticipated change to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) performance requirements for doors and windows. Under new Version 7.0 criteria, windows in the Northern climate zone must now offer U-factor ratings of less than or equal to 0.22 and solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) ratings of greater than or equal to 0.17 (with equivalent performance options also available). In the North Central, windows must offer U-factor ratings of less than or equal to 0.25 and SHGC of less than or equal to 0.40. Windows used in the South-Central zone must include U-factor ratings of less than or equal to 0.28 and SHGC ratings of less than or equal to 0.23. In the Southern region, they must offer U-factor ratings of less than or equal to 0.32 and SHGC ratings of less than or equal to 0.23.

Door and window manufacturer Winchester Industries celebrated its 40th year of offering triple-pane glass as standard.

As of Thursday, October 19, the number of fenestration products in EPA’s database meeting Energy Star requirements totaled 2,184, including 347 doors and 1,808 windows. As of press time, Energy Star’s product finder database had yet to be updated, but with the new requirements program officials tell [DWM] they expect the number of certified products to drop “significantly,” before rising through first-quarter 2024. Those changes will occur as some companies drop out of the program, waiting to see how demand for newly certified products pans out, one official suggests. Others held off on developing and certifying products, leaving a backlog at testing labs. Final draft criteria was issued in July 2022 with a deadline for implementation announced in October 2022.

Despite over a year’s notice, “We talked to several [door and window manufacturers] and they were still deciding a few months ago what to do,” says Tim McGlinchy, executive vice president of engineering and R&D for GED Integrated Solutions. Some are taking a “wait and see” approach, McGlinchy says. “Like, let’s see how popular it is.”

For Winchester Industries, a door and window manufacturer in Saltsburg, Pa., October 23 is déjà vu, says Pat Moser, the company’s marketing director.

“I can remember back when the whole Energy Star program began for doors and windows [in the 1990s]. We were in a meeting about this and we were all just smiling, because we didn’t have to do a thing.”

According to Winchester president Mike Sugrue, flooding the market with every possible product configuration could be detrimental to the industry by confusing consumers.

Last week, Winchester celebrated its 40th anniversary for making triple-pane replacement windows a standard offering. Decades later, company officials are smiling about the requirements for Energy Star 7.0, says president Michael Sugrue.

Door and window manufacturer Winchester Industries celebrated its 40th year of offering triple-pane glass as standard.[/caption]

In the mid 1970s, Winchester’s founders, Bob Weis and George Yuhasz, worked for a major window manufacturer that divided into two business sectors: a premium line and a more cost-effective, mainstream offering. When the company took a direction that neither preferred to follow, Weis told Yuhasz if he could create a premium, high-quality window, he would sell it. In October of 1983, Winchester was founded, offering triple-pane, reinforced vinyl windows as a primary offering—decades ahead of other companies. Today, “Ninety some percent of our products include triple-pane glass,” Sugrue says. “High nineties percent, in fact.”

As some manufacturers wait to see if homeowners are willing to pay for high-performance windows, “The fact that we’re here 40 years later proves it,” Sugrue says.

By making Energy Star 7-rated windows a more premium option, while continuing to promote less expensive products, some window companies are “really price conditioning and then making the sale,” Sugrue says. They’re using the higher price of premium windows to help push the value of lower-performing products, he suggests.

It’s often about advertising what’s possible, to set the hook for marketing, Moser says. For instance, “Some manufacturers have thousands of windows listed with Krypton [gas], because that’s how they get to their [performance] numbers,” she says. “Meanwhile, you can’t even buy Krypton.”

According to Winchester president Mike Sugrue, flooding the market with every possible product configuration could be detrimental to the industry by confusing consumers.

At the moment, it’s cost-prohibitive and unavailable, Sugrue says. By inundating product catalogues with products that are designed to puff up performance claims, companies also risk confusing consumers, he suggests. In the past, when his company has purged its offerings in the National Fenestration Rating Council’s database, “Folks ask us, ‘Okay, but why are you getting rid of the other lines?’” he says. “And we’ll tell them, ‘Because we don’t really offer them.’ They then tell us, ‘But [other manufacturers], they don’t offer everything on their list and they just put everything in there.’ I tell them, ‘I understand, but I only want to put on there what we truly offer, because I don’t want to confuse people.’ We only publish what we offer.”

Regarding the new 7.0 criteria, “I think they’re trying to challenge the market to come up with technologies that lower U-factors and energy costs—all noble and I can’t argue with their motivation,” Sugrue says. “We’re never happy with where we’re at. We’re always looking for the next thing.”

Stay tuned to [DWM]’s newsletter and the November-December print edition for additional updates on the roll out of Energy Star 7.0.

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