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Volume 6, Issue 1                                                January/February 2005

THE RATE DEBATE

And the Survey Says......
Homeowners Rank Energy and Durability as Most Important
By Jim Benney

Six years ago, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) conducted a nationwide survey of homeowners. The information we gathered was quite useful. We used it to make our temporary label more user-friendly, and it formed the basis for our very successful retailer program (through which we place point-of-purchase materials in home stores where and when homeowners want it). 

We learned so much that we decided to do it again this year, and because we’re an organization established to serve the public interest, we’re committed to sharing what we learned as widely as possible.

Energy Performance Still Number One
Our recent survey confirms that of all the factors homeowners consider when thinking about new windows, energy performance is by far the most important. Almost every one of the respondents, 97 percent, said energy performance was an “important” or “very important” factor in their window-buying decision. This correlates with the findings of our 1998 survey.

After energy performance, homeowners ranked durability as the second most important factor (92 percent), followed by price (88 percent), appearance (87 percent) and warranty (80 percent). Brand name came in dead last at 27 percent, suggesting that–at least in the abstract–homeowners don’t care who makes the window as long as it meets their other criteria.

The survey also found that when homeowners enter the market for new windows, it’s usually because they want to increase the energy efficiency of their homes. More than half (54 percent), said that increased energy efficiency would prompt them to buy new windows. Thirty percent said “normal wear and tear,” 28 percent said remodeling their existing home and 12 percent said adding an addition to their existing home. Some of the “other” reasons given included building a new home, installing windows that are easier to clean and wanting a new look for the house.

NFRC Awareness Triples Among Recent Buyers
For us, the most exciting finding was that we’ve succeeded in tripling awareness of NFRC among homeowners who recently purchased new windows. In our 1998 survey, just 5 percent of respondents who had purchased at least four new windows or skylights during the previous three years said that they had heard of NFRC. Among a similar set of respondents in 2004, 15 percent said that they had heard of NFRC. Millions of Americans are now using our ratings to make informed choices about the fenestration products they buy. 

Some of the other significant findings from the survey include:
        • When it comes to information about window energy performance, homeowners look to utilities more than any other source. Three quarters of the respondents said they think utilities are important information sources. Contractors came next (57 percent), followed by manufacturer literature (61 percent) and friends (58 percent).
        • When homeowners think of energy-efficient windows, the benefits that are most important to them include reduced energy costs and energy use, keeping the cold out or the heat in and letting in lots of light. Further down the list were reduced condensation, less fading and less glare.
        • With all other factors being equal (price, quality, etc.), nearly 90 percent of homeowners said they would purchase a window that is certified by an independent energy performance rating agency over a window that is not certified.

We mailed our survey out in two waves to 4,200 households nationwide. The results reported here are based on 593 responses from homeowners all over the country. 

Jim Benney serves as executive director of the National Fenestration Rating Council based in Silver Spring, Md. 

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