Door and Window Musings
by Tara Taffera
March 15th, 2017

What if There Were No Energy Star?

The news that a White House budget proposal could dismantle or privatize the Energy Star program shocked me. Wait, the government isn’t going to save money by cutting back on some of the major burdens on many industries, including door and window manufacturers? Like OSHA’s record-keeping requirements? Like the EPA’s lead paint rule? No, they are considering the deconstruction of  Energy Star. This is one I didn’t see coming, and if I were making a list of things to put on the chopping block, Energy Star wouldn’t even be in my top five. But no one asked me—or you, for that matter.

Before I go further, let’s remember that this is a proposal: We are far from any action being taken. But the fact that it was proposed is alarming to me. Here’s why:

  1. Energy Star doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to reducing energy bills for the majority of consumers across the U.S. I have been covering the door and window industry for 19 years now, and I remember sitting in industry meetings and hearing then-program manager Rich Karney telling the manufacturers in the room that Energy Star wasn’t stringent enough. Many of the manufacturers didn’t agree—in fact, every time Energy Star goes through an overhaul there has always been spirited discussion (a nice way of putting it) of how low you should go with those U-factors. Do we really want to go backwards?
  2. If you are going to purchase an Energy Star window it’s going to be dual-pane—single pane isn’t going to cut it. Yet, when attending industry meetings I still hear about the large number of single-pane windows in existence. In fact, it’s why companies like NewSouth Windows in Florida are experiencing such impressive growth—because the Sunshine State has a huge percentage of single-pane windows in existence. The company is trying to change that—and is succeeding. Still, single-pane windows account for about 40 percent of the windows in existence.
  3. Let’s not forget the program is voluntary. As my supervisor Debra Levy likes to say, “What’s the goal here?” It’s a great question. What is the goal? Do we really want to reduce the number of energy-efficient doors and window in existence? Do we really want to go backwards? I don’t think we do, no matter what the arguments are over U-factors and Northern and Southern zones.

Energy Advocates Alarmed

Energy-efficiency advocates expressed concern about plans to eliminate Energy Star.

“We are alarmed by these reports,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). “It is an incredible success story that should be celebrated, not cast aside.”

“We strongly support the Energy Star program,” added Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser at the ACEEE. Bottom line: it helps consumers save money. They estimate consumers who bought Energy Star products and participated in their programs saved $34 billion in 2015, and a cumulative total of $430 billion through 2015.

When DWM published the news that Energy Star could be in jeopardy, many took to the website to weigh in. I deeply respect Robert Maynes, director of marketing at Mathews Brothers, but I must take issue with his comment online.

“All the consumer needs in order to make an informed decision is right there on the NFRC website,” said Maynes.

Not to discredit the consumer, but I just don’t think the majority are that savvy. It took years for Energy Star to build up its credibility, and the NFRC might find it difficult to compete with that legacy.

I would even be bold as to say this: why are we even looking at vacuum glazing, at switchable technology, at all the advanced technology that exists, yet isn’t widely used due to price? If we don’t have the wherewithal to keep the Energy Star program going, why bother with everything else?

This blog is from Door and Window Market [DWM] magazine's free e-newsletter that covers the latest door and window industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to [DWM] magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

Tags: ,

One comment
Leave a comment »

  1. I suspect the ENERGY STAR program will survive, mostly because the major cost burdens are to the industry, not the government.

    If it is dropped, the industry has so much invested in the program from a marketing standpoint that it would have to invent a clone replacement. Let’s hear it for ENERGY SMART!

Leave Comment