Volume 10, Issue 5 - May/June 2009

eye on energy

Can You Afford Not to Sell Energy Star® Windows?
by Ric Jackson

It’s not news that consumers are demanding better energy-saving products when they remodel or buy a home. There’s no time to waste in meeting these demands. Now is the time to get onboard with the Department of Energy’s upcoming revisions to Energy Star performance requirements. (The latest update has the revisions being implemented as early as January 2010.)

Given today’s economy, now may not seem like an ideal time to be adjusting your manufacturing operations. However, if you don’t take steps now to meet stricter energy efficiency requirements, you run the risk of losing the Energy Star designation as well as missing the benefits of the tax credit. And that doesn’t bode well for window sales.

Savvy consumers want paybacks on their investments. Suppliers must back their energy efficiency and environmental messages with tangible numbers.The Energy Star program is one of the few ways to build this consumer confidence, especially with its third-party NFRC ratings. Companies taking action now to meet upcoming Energy Star requirements will be better positioned to meet future consumer demands.

The Road Ahead
Looking to future Energy Star certification, the road ahead holds key considerations in terms of window designs and regional differences:
• Gas Filling. Expect to see a dramatic increase in argon gas filling, which will be almost mandatory to meet criteria in most Energy Star zones. With this proliferation, many fabricators may move to automated online gas filling systems. Argon can reduce total window U-values by up to 0.04. Krypton may add another 0.02 U-value reduction compared to argon, but at a very high cost.
• Spacers. High-conductivity spacers such as aluminum and steel will have difficulty meeting Energy Star thermal performance needs, possibly making the U.S. and Canada two of the first countries in the world to phase out cold-edge spacers. The lowest conductivity spacers can reduce total window U-values by up to 0.04 from aluminum spacer bar and 0.01 to 0.03 from first- and second-generation warm-edge spacers made with steel or foams.
• Triples. Triple insulating glass units in northern climate zones will become more prevalent to meet phase two Energy Star U-values, which cannot be met with current gas and low-E glass combinations. The biggest benefit triples provide is the option to coat more surfaces with low-E. A triple with two low-E surfaces can reduce U-values by another 0.04; however, there may be additional costs in frame design and hardware for the added weight.
• SHGC. Higher solar heat gain coefficients will be required in the north and lower ones in the south. This affects glass options. It will be very expensive and may not be practical to make a universal window for all zones.
• Certification. IG certification under ASTM 2190 or CAN2-12.8 will be mandatory in the United States and Canada, leading to an increase in certification testing. Producers that have never undergone certification will be preparing for testing.
• Production Systems. Reduced volume is driving down efficiency for systems that need high volumes to run optimally. This trend favors production systems that can be scaled to the volume demand on short intervals like days and even hours. Success for window fabricators in the next few years will mean having the flexibility to meet almost any demand from product options to short lead times.

Looking Forward
Meeting Energy Star requirements will be vital to competing during the next few years. Fortunately, you can build the window of the future with the materials of today. Window manufacturers that choose to meet future requirements today can differentiate themselves and create a competitive edge. Can you afford not to make the changes necessary to produce and sell Energy Star windows? 

Ric Jackson is the director of marketing and business development for Truseal Technologies Inc. He can be reached at rjackson@truseal.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.

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