Fenestration Focus July/August 2023August 17th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs
Prada, Porsche, Energy Star? With the Latest Update, Energy Star Is a True Sign of Premium Performance
By Eric Thompson
With the latest version set to take effect in October, what will the market for Energy Star-rated doors and windows look like a year from now? That’s a question worth pondering. As a steep change from previous versions, Energy Star 7.0 has required manufacturers to make significant investments in their technologies to meet the new requirements. That will have some implications in the marketplace.
For starters: Will customers pay for performance upgrades? It’s inevitable that 7.0-certified products will come at a higher price point and effectively nudge toward the higher end of what’s available from many manufacturers. As a result, will the Energy Star label come to indicate a luxury item? And how will this impact the entirety of a manufacturer’s portfolio?
Translating 7.0’s Stringency
When you think of Energy Star, you might think of the technologies that have been included to enable your windows to meet performance requirements: triple-pane insulating glass units (IGUs); warm-edge spacer systems; low-E coatings. But what does your customer think? In recent history, the label did most of the work for you, because it’s a mark that people know, likely having seen it elsewhere. They might think: “That’s going to save me money on my energy bills.” But once 7.0 comes into effect, they might think something else, such as: “Why is that option pricier than the others?” Since demonstrating hard payback figures for 7.0 can be a challenge, the sell could be something like this: it’s a highly engineered, top-of-the-line product designed to keep your home more comfortable.
Elsewhere, the label is sometimes used by small- to mid-sized manufacturers to place themselves on the same playing field as national window companies. In this regard, maintaining the Energy Star label has been a way to level the playing field rather than to necessarily indicate a premium product line. Whether or not that stays the course remains to be seen.
These are the types of scenarios that manufacturers will need to work through in deciding how many window systems in their portfolio—if any—will be worth certifying to the new standard. It may take until companies are evaluating their balance sheets next year to make any kinds of meaningful decisions.
Energy Star has certainly been an effective marketing tool for door and window companies, but it shouldn’t be the only tool. Indeed, some of today’s high-performance vinyl extrusions provide a wide range of desirable attributes that can elevate residential spaces. These may be compatible with your Energy Star strategy and can help you further elevate your certified products with additional top-end features. A few of them include: color options; alternative materials; and sound control.
The new stringency of Energy Star 7.0 is likely to have a big impact on how the label is attained, deployed and perceived. Working with the right suppliers to deliver the high-performance products your customers demand will be increasingly important.
Eric Thompson is national account manager for Quanex Corp.
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