Industry Reacts to ENERGY STAR® Criteria

April 9th, 2009 by Editor

Last week, the Department of Energy released the long-awaited final, new ENERGY STAR criteria-just a few weeks after the draft had been released on March 11. Though comments were reviewed during that time, some still feel the final decision was made a bit quickly.

“Overall, given the short time between March 11 and April 7 obviously the DOE wasn’t going to take a lot of time with analysis of the comments. We knew there wasn’t going to be a large-scale shift,” says Jeff Lowinski, vice president of advocacy and technical services for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. Chuck Anderson, codes and industry affairs manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), also says the final criteria was what he expected.

But Lowinski was pleased that the DOE did consider many of the WDMA’s comments. Following are some of his reactions to the final criteria:

• He notes that no changes were made to solar heat gain coefficient or U-values since the last draft. “We wanted them shifted a bit,” he says.
• “A number of issues still have to be considered and that will be done for phase 2.”
• DOE will continue to allow tubular daylighting devices to be rated. “All doors will be qualified according to the door table based on our recommendation,” he says.
• “The shift to four zones is a positive move,” says Lowinski.
• “We wish they had considered the proposal we made in November 2008 which was to have a North American map which would have brought the U.S. and Canadian ENERGY STAR programs more in line with one another,” says Lowinski.

Lowinski also notes that implementation issues still have to be addressed and those haven’t been announced yet.

As far as phase 2, Lowinski says, “We are ready to work with DOE on phase 2 starting today. Our member companies want to get those numbers solidified.” Lowinski says the DOE will start this process later in the 2009 calendar year but adds, “We have petitioned them to start ASAP.”

While Lowinski says phase 1 is the transition phase, “Phase 2 is where product reengineering will come in,” which is why he says starting this process early is crucial.

While WDMA is already looking forward to phase 2, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) supports a delayed implementation of Phase 1, according to its president, Richard Walker.

“AAMA members are still concerned about the timing of the new criteria and continue to ask to delay the implementation date,” says Walker. “Due to severe economic conditions and confusion with the stimulus tax credit, there is consensus that the implementation should be delayed until the tax credit is out of play.”

Anderson furthers this sentiment, speaking to the confusion created between Energy Star and the tax credits.

“As an industry, our members understand that DOE’s goal was to set the criteria to encourage utilization of the ‘cream of the crop’ of commercially available products. Historically, incentive rebates, tax credits and low-interest loan programs have been tied to these products, making ENERGY STAR a phenomenal marketing tool to promote the most energy efficient windows, doors and skylights,” he says. “It was very unfortunate that our nation’s Congress decided to override the multi-billion dollar federal program, ENERGY STAR, and create separate criteria as an incentive, especially given the timing of the stimulus package on virtually the eve of the criteria announcement.”

Window manufacturers such as Gorell Windows and Doors are pleased with the final ENERGY STAR criteria.

“The solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) numbers are more applicable with ENERGY STAR than they are with the .30/.30 tax credit numbers,” says Tyson Schwartz, vice president of sales and marketing. “With the SHGC numbers ENERGY STAR has released, the numbers are much more applicable or customized for each particular region.”

“This update to the energy limits and climate zones delivers consumers a balance of value and performance,” says Ray Garries, JELD-WEN External Affairs corporate manager. “The new 2010 program will increase energy efficiency 18 percent nationally, and 20 percent in the North Central and Southern climate zones over current standards.”

Although these manufacturers are pleased, Schwartz does have a suggestion for DOE in terms of improving the program even further.

“One suggested improvement we have for ENERGY STAR is really to push for better overall window performance (U-value) in the southern climates,” he says. “Gorell is one of the few companies that markets and sells products in the southern climates that manufactures a window that is both hurricane-rated and boasts high energy efficiency. Our point is, you don’t have to be just an impact window or just an energy-efficient window, homeowners can have both benefits in one window.”

Other manufacturers such as Thermal Windows aren’t as pleased with the requirements.

“Of course we are in favor of energy independence for our country, but I doubt if you could ever get an industry-wide consensus regarding standards or zone layout for the revised ENERGY STAR program,” says Dennis Lane, president. “Our country has such a vast difference in climates that it is unreasonable to draw a line indicating hat on one side you need a 0.60 U-factor and a few miles away, in some cases to the north, east or west, the criteria is a 0.35 U-factor. Therefore, we would have to express disappointment with the zones established.”

He adds that the ENERGY STAR program continues to favor vinyl windows while disregarding air infiltration and long-term performance of the product. However, the company, which primarily manufactures aluminum windows, does manufacture vinyl products that will meet the 2010 residential criteria and continues to develop commercial thermally broken aluminum designs to address the change in residential and “no doubt future commercial specifications,” says Lane.

“More evident than ever, as the fenestration market rapidly changes, it is essential that manufacturers change along with them,” he adds.

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  1. This disparity between the 30/30 tax criteria and those of Energy Star I find not only mind boggling, yet will only serve to confuse the consumer further as to what constitutes being an energy efficient window. Between the lack of understanding and vision that the one size fits all approach represents being with 30/30, it is then undermined further with Energy Star having southern R Values too low whe one considers today how simple and cost effect to be improved considerably. The truth is between the special interests groups and politicking, the US government has now committed multi-millions to a tax incentive program that in the northern climate zone under 30/30 will give little or even a negative result as opposed to even double pane uncoated glass. In the south although the improved solar control mandated by Energy Star will bring better result the reluctance to admit the necessity for double paned glass lessens having this even greater potential efficiency being reached needlessly. Couple this with what the initial Dade country reports revealed that dwellings with double pane glass had a marked improvement ofver single in terms blow out in hurricane conditions and it becomes an even less justifiable position. With the current economic crises in which energy self sufficiency is a key component for economic recovery and future growth I’m afraid government, Energy Star and many in the industry have still to realize the money and effort needs to be and easily can be spent more wisely.



  2. The key comment made is the energy factors do favor vinyl windows. Simply put, it is easier and cheaper to manufacture a vinyl window to meet the 30/30 requirements of the tax credit. However, as many sad homeowners have found, long term use of vinyl windows does produce sagging, uneven fit and air infiltration. What good is an insulation rating if the wind can blow right through a sagging, poorly closing unit?

    But, and this should come as no surprise to people who are knowledgeable with window construction, vinyl windows aren’t the only ones which are likely to fit poorly and leak over time. Perhaps the word “cheap” should be substitued in the sentance, “Cheap and poorly made” windows regardless of wood or vinyl construction are likely to sag, and fit poorly.

    Cheaply made refers more to the thickness of material not just the material type. A thin frame and sash wood window, clad with aluminum or vinly is just as likely to perform poorly over time.

    A well made window, be it wood / clad or vinyl, which thick, strong frames and sashes will hold up. And yes, they will cost more than the cheap competitor products. At least one vinyl window manufacturer namely, Solaris of Canada, makes a window that not only meets 30/30 but is strong enough to resist sagging and certain units surpass huricane strength. Unfortunately, it is not, however a cheap window rivals the price of a well made wood clad unit.

    The biggest surprise can be found looking at the most well known window brands. Buying these well known brands that are heavily advertises, does not gaurantee the window will be strong enough to hold up. Major brands offer both a “good window’ and a “cheap” window. If you are purchasing these well known brands be sure to ask and see the difference in physical construction. It is not possible to lower the price of a well made unit without reducing it’s performance. Remember too, it’s not just the U factor that relates to longevity.

    Longevity is a factor of strength and can only be appreciated by comparing size, thickness and strength of materials. Thicker components and thicker material (thickness of vinyl or thickness of aluminum cladding) are a key component in gauging window longevity.

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