Volume 10, Issue 5 - May/June 2009

from the publisher

The Energy Debate: No Turning Back 
by Tara Taffera

When Congress included a tax credit of $1,500 for window purchases in the Stimulus Act it passed, the goal was to stimulate the economy. But did they follow through with that goal? As with many issues, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer.Congress says it wanted to stimulate the economy, yet set the .30/.30 provision to limit the number of windows that qualified. Any less stringent requirement and the cost to the Treasury Department would have been outrageous (for all the details on .30/.30, see the article on page 22.

“We’re trying to stimulate the economy but we’re limiting it,” says Jeff Lowinski of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. 

So the Stimulus Act was designed to spur spending, but it ended up setting energy policy as well—all at the eleventh hour with a lack of sufficient knowledge.

The good news is that the manufacturers who didn’t qualify aren’t giving up. They immediately went to work to improve their products so they could meet the requirements.

But there’s some bad news to go along with that good-news scenario. I applaud those manufacturers making changes: They absolutely have to if they want to survive. 

But a part of me can’t help but worry about problems that may occur during a rush to get something done. When I’m in a rush I may misspell a word, for example. But a window’s problems will only be caught five or ten years from now when the window fails. And running spellcheck won’t fix the problem. “

What no one wants in the industry is to put out a product out that has massive failures,” says Lowinski. He says that the new requirements dictate triple-glazed products and in his opinion, “These may not be ready for prime time.” 

“We’re talking about taking a .30/.30 product to Northern Georgia,” adds Lowinski. “That’s an area that’s struggling with double-glaze. Does that really make sense?”

Another option, he points out, is going with a suspended film type of system, but this brings up durability issues. 

It is a difficult topic and every time I write or talk about it, I can see both sides. 

For example, I feel for manufacturers such as Jim Redcliff from Chapman Windows and Doors in West Chester, Pa., a distributor of a variety of different window lines. Following is a comment he posted on DWM’s website in response to one of the articles we wrote about .30/.30.

“We are a small business with six lines of quality wood windows and our sales are being adversely affected by this financial crisis. The tax incentive in the Recovery Act would be a blessing, but Congress chose to ignore the long-standing Energy Star® ratings and came up with their own. We are laying off people to stay in business … This is the spring season, usually a busy time of year. Most of our wood products are in the .31 to .33 range and do not qualify for the credit … A quick reversal of the .30 standard is required. Go back to Energy Star immediately and set future dates for companies to reach the .30 level.”

Well, the IRS actually did amend the requirements in the legislation. On April 22 it said that .30/.30 doesn’t go into effect until June 1. That gives manufacturers such as Chapman a little more time, but that doesn’t help him and others like him who have already lost valuable business. 

But on the flip side I also agree with Jim Larsen from Cardinal, who asks, in essence, “Why are we trying to go back?”

As I said, it’s a complicated issue. We wouldn’t have to even consider “going back,” if Congress had looked to Energy Star, which has spent years researching what window is right for a particular climate, and other important factors. 

Whatever happens this country is moving toward more efficient products. Companies better be moving toward them as well or they’ll be catching up the next time Congress decides to make a quick decision at three in the morning. yTara Taffera is the publisher of DWM magazine.


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