Fenestration Focus May/June 2022

May 20th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs

Beyond Energy Star 7.0: The Business Case for Higher Performing Window Systems

By Doug Hauck

It’s no secret that new Energy Star Version 7.0 standards will impose performance ratings that go beyond low-E glass and spacer upgrades. At the same time, the idea of revamping your shop to offer options for meeting the proposed criteria is a big decision, especially with labor and supply challenges adding layers of complexity. If the decision turned solely on Energy Star compliance, that would be one thing. But today, there are other factors to consider.

The Time Is Ripe for Improvement

One important thought to consider is the opportunity for re-investing to capture your fair share of a marketplace that’s surging with interest in energy performance. The pandemic has taught homebuilders, remodelers, home owners and home buyers many lessons, including how to think more critically about home energy performance. Energy performance is a general expectation among those looking to upgrade, and there are proof points to support this. For instance, a recent survey from the National Association of Home Builders found 83% of homeowners cited Energy Star-rated windows as an essential or desirable feature.

Passive house is also going mainstream, as more custom builders come around to this model in response to rising demand, improved margins, and affordability, as a passive house only costs 3% more on average to build than a traditional home.

As you consider ways to meet the demand for improved energy performance, think of how technology can support any product addition you weigh, including two important advances.

With an interior lite of glass that’s as little as 0.7 mm thick, thin-triple insulating glass units (IGUs), or “skinny triples,” represent a considerable advance over standard triple-pane. Filled with krypton, these units deliver outstanding performance with only minimal additions to weight and thickness compared to double-pane glass. One reason conventional triples have never truly taken off in the American marketplace is that they require changes in the design of windows. With their decreased thickness and weight, skinny triples can help offset that issue in many cases by serving
as a direct swap for double-pane glass.

Vinyl remains the most popular window material for U.S. homeowners, and there are options for improvement here, but you may need to incorporate additional elements to hit the new targets. A foam-filled vinyl frame mitigates thermal breaks. However, foam filling can be hard and expensive. A higher-performing vinyl system can bridge that gap. Off-the-shelf, pre-foam-filled options, or systems with cavities small enough to rule out the need for foam, should help you achieve the necessary performance targets. These types of systems will come at a relatively higher upfront cost, but given that any new series of Energy Star compliant windows will be a premium product, you’ll likely achieve a good return on investment.

As you consider your options for Energy Star Version 7.0, keep in mind it’s not just gaining or maintaining a valuable Energy Star association. It’s also about keeping pace in a marketplace that understands the value, utility and comfort of improved energy performance.

Doug Hauck is senior technical services representative for Quanex Building Products.
douglas.hauck@quanex.com

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