from the Publisher
Finding the Silver Lining
by Tara Taffera
Consumers everywhere are grumbling about their home heating bills. Just the other day, my friend told me how she was planning to call her gas company to inquire about her $585 gas bill. She was sure it was a mistake considering that in one month the amount had more than quadrupled. But there was no mistake—energy prices are as high as they have been in decades.
On page 32, many of the industry's experts weigh in on what the year 2001 holds for our industry. A common theme evolves: in 2001 we will see a slight economic downturn, along with rising energy and fuel costs and a decline in housing starts. But in spite of this, savvy window manufacturers can actually sell more windows this year, particularly energy-efficient ones.
With energy costs on the rise, many people are becoming increasingly interested in purchasing windows with lower U-values. Luckily, there is now an abundance of windows made with low-E glass on the market which consumers can purchase.
Thanks to the efforts of organizations such as the Efficient Windows Collaborative, the National Fenestration Rating Council and the Department of Energy's ENERGY STAR® program, an increasing number of homeowners are aware of the benefits of efficient windows. These organizations not only promote the use of efficient windows, they also work with other groups, such as legislators, to make it easier for consumers to purchase these products. For example, ENERGY STAR is now working toward eliminating the sales tax when ENERGY STAR products are purchased, and in many states this will include windows.
But despite these efforts a large number of homeowners are still in the dark. This is where manufacturers need to get involved instead of leaving all the work to other organizations. Where do they begin? Well, for starters manufacturers can convince people, such as my friend, that instead of turning down their thermostats and hovering under the covers to stay warm, they can replace those inefficient windows with more efficient ones. This may not be such a hard sell. In fact, industry experts say that money-conscious consumers will likely upgrade their homes, including replacing their windows, rather than moving into more expensive houses.
But admittedly, it may be easier to convince some homeowners than others. While Americans don't enjoy paying as much as four times as they once did for utility bills, they also don't want to shell out thousands of dollars for new windows. The window industry must convince them of the long-term benefits and cost savings.
Manufacturers are urged to get involved—it's a win-win situation. Window manufacturers who partner with these programs sell more product and increase their market share, while consumers pay less for energy bills and are more comfortable.
At the end of 2001, the year may not be remembered for its prosperous economy. But, the window industry may remember it as the year of prosperity.
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