July/August 2003

A Star Program
    Consumers Are Looking 
for the Phrase “Energy Efficient” in Products

by Samantha Carpenter

In the building-products industry, some of the hottest words today are “energy efficient.” Consumers are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to which products are energy-efficient. Whether they visit distributors, dealers or wholesalers, they want to make sure the products they are buying are exactly that—energy efficient.

The U.S. Energy Star program is a voluntary labeling program stemming from “a dynamic government/industry partnership that offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions, making it easy to save money while protecting the environment for future generations,” according to program literature.

A Short History
In 1992 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced Energy Star as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Computers and monitors were the first products labeled. Through 1995, EPA expanded the label to additional office equipment products and residential heating and cooling equipment. In 1996, EPA became partners with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for particular product categories. The Energy Star label is now available on major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, windows, doors and more.

According to Marsha Penhaker, deputy program manager of Energy Star for the DOE, the reason the program has included windows and doors is “because it makes sense.” Currently, the program has approximately 350 window and door manufacturers as partners.

“Windows and doors obviously have a great impact on the energy costs of both cooling and heating a home. Because of the advances in technology, windows can now help keep the house cooler in the summer and keep it warmer in the winter,” she said.

But what exactly does the Energy Star label tell consumers? 

“The Energy Star label on a window or a door shows a map of the country divided into zones, and each zone has specific requirements in terms of the U-factor and the solar heat gain coefficient. So the label shows the numbers associated with each of those zones. And the manufacturers will put this label on each qualified window, door and skylight they make, showing which zone that particular product qualifies for,” said Penhaker. (See sidebar for more on Energy Star requirements.)

Becoming an Energy Star Partner
What does it take for manufacturers to display the Energy Star label on their products?

“Basically, they go online and request a partnership agreement, but the most important part of that is they have to actually submit their product to the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) to be tested. NFRC is a non-profit organization created by the window and door and skylight industry,” said Penhaker.

When Energy Star was first introduced, it decided to use NFRC ratings as a way to determine whether products met its criteria to receive the Energy Star designation. Because NFRC provides fair, accurate and energy-performance ratings, Energy Star was able to trust that products certified through NFRC would perform as the manufacturer stipulated,” said Leonard Greenberger, media contact for NFRC.

“Under the procedure, manufacturers contract a test laboratory to do the actual testing, and those tests and the procedures are overseen by an independent agency that is licensed by NFRC,” Greenberger said.

Greenberger feels it is important to specify that the NFRC certification program is separate from Energy Star

“A lot of manufacturers participate in the NFRC system for reasons other than Energy Star. But we were very pleased that [Energy Star] recognized the credibility of our rating system and decided to use it as their means for determining their product compliance,” he said.

By touting the Energy Star label, manufacturers benefit in the marketplace.
Once a company becomes a partner, it has a whole suite of educational materials that it can download to educate consumers as well as its sales staff about the Energy Star program. 

Energy Star Announces New Criteria
The definition of Energy Star-qualifying windows and doors (and skylights, which are also included) is based on their U-factor and solar heat gain coefficients (SHGC). The allowable limits for these parameters have been based on three climatic regions: a Southern “mostly cooling” zone, a central zone and a Northern “mostly heating” zone.

On May 28, 2003, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced new, more stringent requirements for windows to qualify for the Energy Star rating.

The final new criteria are based on four climatic zones, defined by ranges of total annual heating degree days (HDD) and cooling degree days (CDD).
Zone HDD/CDD Coverage Windows & Doors Skylights
    U-factor SHGC U-factor SHGH
Northern = 5,400 HDD  £ 0.35  any  £ 0.60  
North Central 3,600 - 5,400 HDD  £ 0.40  £ 0.55  £ 0.60  £ 0.40
South Central 6,300 - 4,500 CDD  £ 0.40  £ 0.40  £ 0.60  £ 0.40
Southern = 6,300 HDD  £ 0.65  £ 0.40  £  0.75  £ 0.40

Worth the Effort
“The recognition of the Energy Star program is so widespread and so accepted now by an assortment of products that it makes all the sense in the world for window manufacturers to align themselves with the Energy Star program,” said Kathy Ziprik, public relations representative for Simonton Windows of Parkersburg, W.Va.

“At Simonton, we responded to consumer requests for energy-efficient products during the past decade, which led us to our partnership with Energy Star,” she said.

Asked why Windsor Windows & Doors of West Des Moines, Iowa, became an Energy Star partner, Kris Winter, marketing communications manager, said, “We know how valuable the program is in the marketplace. Energy Star has done a great job of helping builders and homeowners understand the importance of energy-efficient products. 

The Energy Star program is a good program as a whole, not just for windows and doors. It has helped consumers understand energy efficiency and what it means as far as any product in their homes.”

The program is also helpful when it comes to builders meeting code requirements. Since codes continue to propagate throughout the country, the Energy Star label informs builders if a product will work in their areas, said Winter.

Peter Lenar, marketing manager at Hurd Millwork Co. of Medford, Wis., said his company became involved with Energy Star to provide solutions that meet and exceed the demand for energy-efficient products around the country. 

“Energy Star has given us a great platform to promote these products and gain brand awareness in key markets around the country,” he said.

Distributor Benefits
Not only do manufacturers benefit, but distributors, dealers and wholesalers also benefit from selling Energy Star-labeled products.

“I think it’s a distinct advantage for jobbers to carry Energy Star products because consumers are requesting them so much these days,” Ziprik said.

“Distributors ask if our products are certified. They hear it from their builders who hear it from their homeowners,” said Winter.

But not all distributors have jumped on the Energy Star bandwagon. 

“Response from our distributors has been mixed. Certain parts of the country, mainly in the Northern and Mountain States, have been leading the charge and demanding products from us to meet the growing demand for Energy Star. Other parts of the country have not been nearly as interested. It all depends on the energy demands in that particular part of the country,” said Lenar.

Gilcrest/Jewett Lumber Co. of Waukee, Iowa, sells Windsor Windows and Doors’ Energy Star- labeled products. According to Brad Schulte, window and door manager, selling Energy Star-labeled products has been fantastic for his company.

“I love the Energy Star program because it’s kept some manufacturers out of the game who didn’t make good enough products, but it has also created competition between builders. It only took one good-size builder to start using to promote Energy Star. Once they felt that they had to do it to be competitive, it just raised the bar for everybody,” said Schulte.

“We are all about selling energy-efficient products, and it’s not because of the increase in price. We truly want to see them in the field; we want to see fuel-efficient, energy-efficient products being used,” he said. 

Energy Star Adds New Homes to Program
While the Energy Star program includes a myriad of products, it has also tackled a bigger project within the building-products industry recently. Now, consumers can buy an Energy Star-qualified new home. 

All of the home’s systems, such as its heating and cooling and the envelop, in an Energy Star-qualified new home have to be Energy Star-qualified. This rating is completed by a certified energy rater. A home gets the Energy Star-qualified new home distinction by being 30 percent more energy-efficient than a standard home.
Whether it’s a manufacturer wanting to label its product, a distributor or dealer selling the product or a consumer looking for an appliance, window or door or new home, the Energy Star program has benefited all. In fact, according to Energy Star, it has successfully delivered energy and cost savings across the country, saving businesses, organizations and consumers more than $5 billion a year.

For more information on the Energy Star program, visit its website at

Samantha Carpenter is the editor of SHELTER magazine.



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