Volume 48, Issue 6 - November/December 2009

In the News

 

Legislation Introduced to Amend Tax Credits and Tie Them to Energy Star®

For months, there has been action from some in the industry, including the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), to modify the .30/.30 standard in the window tax credit so it is tied to Energy Star Standards instead.

Well almost eight months since .30/.30 was introduced, legislation (S. 1792) was introduced to this end on October 15 by Sen. John Rockefeller (D - W.Va.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R - Iowa) and was referred to the Committee on Finance.

The bill would replace the .30/.30 standard for the $1,500 tax credit and replace it with the 2010 Energy Star standards for doors, windows and skylights. It would apply to purchases in 2010.

If passed it would also allow skylights to qualify for the credits. The current tax credit tied to the .30/.30 standard effectively eliminates skylights from even qualifying for tax credits. Skylights are installed in a non-vertical application, and are also tested that way. They also project above the plane of the roof, unlike windows which are installed in the plane of the wall. Because of this, their U-factor is higher than windows of identical construction.

Skylight manufacturers such as VELUX have been working to get this changed since .30/.30 was introduced, as company officials say it virtually eliminates any of its products from qualifying.

“If S.1792 is enacted, it should enable our customers to finally participate in the drive to replace old skylights with the most efficient, highest quality and readily available affordable units on the market,” says Roger LeBrun, product certification engineer for VELUX America Inc.

The WDMA released a statement the day after the bill’s introduction applauding the legislation.

“The one-size-fits-all approach of the current tax credit fails to recognize that different regions of the country require different standards to achieve improved energy efficiency depending on climate,” says WDMA executive vice president Michael O’Brien. “A window, door or skylight designed to protect from the cold winters of the north is not ideal to face the heat of a southern summer. Established Energy Star standards, widely recognized by consumers, builders and retailers, recognize these differences and have different requirements for four different regions.”

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) weighed in on the bill as well as its members also would have liked to see the tax credit more closely tied to Energy Star.

“In January, AAMA and its members urged the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to support legislation that would extend and expand the 25C tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements, including Energy Star products such as doors and windows,” says AAMA president Richard Walker. “When the .30/.30 legislation was enacted, there was much confusion within the marketplace. Understandably, Energy Star qualifications are easier for consumers to understand than U-values and solar heat gain coefficients.”

Walker says he is pleased to see a bill introduced that would tie the credits to Energy Star–a proven program in the
marketplace.

 


EPA Takes on Energy Star® Program; Will Introduce Super Star
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy recently announced that they will begin working together, and, as part of this partnership, the Energy Star program will now fall under the work of the EPA. In addition, as part of the announcement, the groups announced that EPA will be establishing a Super Star program as well. According to the announcement, products in the top 25 percent will qualify as Energy Star and those in the top 5 percent will qualify as Super Star. Though the EPA and DOE currently have named the new program Super Star, they note that “the name and look of this higher tier will be developed through market research.”

EPA will handle the marketing, outreach, monitoring and verification, and setting the performance levels for the programs; however, the announcement notes that “performance levels will be set using established and consistent principles for the Energy Star brand.”

The DOE will continue to support this program as well, “by increasing its efforts in monitoring and verifying test procedure compliance and the development of federal test procedures and metrics.”

The EPA will maintain the database of Energy Star and Super Star products and test results, and will develop the list of new products to be added to the program.

With the partnership, a Governing Council will be formed. The Council will include the EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation and the DOE’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. They will work together ensure that work programs between DOE and EPA are complementary and not duplicative, and will “leverage federal dollars to achieve maximum energy efficiency.” They also will hold meetings twice annually with program stakeholders, according to the announcement.

Ann Bailey, director of Energy Star product labeling for the EPA, spoke with Shelter magazine about the changes and advised that no staff will move from DOE to EPA.

She added, “The EPA and DOE will be working very closely. I don’t know exactly how they intend to staff the program.”

DOE spokesperson Chris Kielich advised Shelter magazine that Rich Karney will remain Energy Star program manager.
Karney was not available for comment at press time.

As for the door, window and skylight criteria and the impending criteria changes, Bailey said EPA currently has no plans to change this.

“We have no immediate plans to change the criteria,” Bailey said. “As part of the transition we’ll be looking at all of the specifications and making sure they remain consistent with our Energy Star principles.”

She also addressed the reason for the move.

“We’ve been looking for ways to clarify the roles and responsibilities between the two agencies and with the new political management it was a high priority for the success of the program,” added Bailey.


Industry Reaction
While many say they are pleased with the change, some admit that it could create even more confusion in the marketplace, particularly for dealers. In fact, Shelter magazine has published several articles (see June/July August, page 8 and September-October, page 14) detailing the fact that dealers are not well-versed in which windows meet .30./.30. If this legislation is passed this will change the information flow once again and manufacturers will have to again educate dealers concerning which windows meet the requirements.

They, in turn, will have to convey the changes to the customer.

“That whole line of communication is strained,” says Truseal’s Ric Jackson, supplier of spacer products. “The leaders will be those who find a way to communicate down the chain as far as dealers/contractors.”

However, sometimes contractors don’t even know there is a tax credit.

“I’m frantically trying to get the message out that there even is a tax credit,” says Robert Farnham, green initiative coordinator at Bethel Hill Lumber in Bethel, Vt. “I don’t care what the number is [.30/.30 or Energy Star 2010]. I’m just telling the guys who sell windows, doors or insulation that this exists.”

“Clearly the manufacturers aren’t doing their job,” he adds.

He says manufacturers’ websites do a great job of educating the consumer, but the message isn’t getting to the dealer.

“I was just downstairs helping out at [the] desk and a contractor came in who was doing a renovation job” says Farnham. “I asked him if he was doing windows and doors and he said, ‘Yes, but the customer isn’t sure they want to replace this year due to financial constraints. I asked him if he knew about the tax credits which he didn’t. Now he has a tool to close the sale and can tell the customer, ‘You want to act now and here’s why.’”

“For those who are using it as a selling tool, it is closing the deal,” he adds.

However, there are a few dealers out there who are in a unique situation in that they don’t have to spend a lot of time determining what windows qualify. This includes Power Windows and Siding, a dealer who sells just one window line, which is provided by Northeast Building Products of Philadelphia. Power Windows didn’t have to spend time figuring out which products did and didn’t qualify.

“.30/.30 was good for us because other retailers had to increase their products [efficiency] to qualify,” says Adam Kaliner, president.

 


“Recovery Through Retrofit Program” Aims to Build on Recovery Act
Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a new plan in October, deemed Recovery Through Retrofit, with the goal of making American homes and buildings more energy-efficient. According to the plan, the program builds on investments made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to expand the home energy efficiency and retrofit market.

By implementing Recovery Through Retrofit’s recommendations, the federal government plans to lay the groundwork for a self-sustaining home energy efficiency retrofit industry, according to the report, which provides a roadmap of how the federal government can use existing authorities and funds to unlock private capital and mobilize communities.

Following are a few key areas of the plan:
1. Develop an Energy Performance Label for Homes
New homes can already earn the Energy Star label—but no such label is available for existing homes.

2. Develop a National Home Energy Performance Measure

This measure is designed to make it easier for consumers to understand how much they can save by retrofitting their homes. It also will give lenders the information they need to work with homeowners who are looking to invest in home energy improvements.

3. Improve Energy-Efficient Mortgages

Federal departments and agencies will work collaboratively to: advance a standard home energy performance measure and more uniform underwriting procedures; develop procedures for more accurate home energy appraisals; and streamline the energy audit process.

4. Mobilize a Well-Trained National Energy Retrofit Workforce; Establish National Workforce Certifications and Training Standards

“A uniform set of national standards to qualify energy efficiency and retrofit workers and industry training providers will establish the foundation of consumer confidence that work will be completed correctly and produce the expected energy savings and benefits,” according to the report.


ICC Approves Side-Hinged Exterior Door Standard
The Residential Building Code Development Committee approved the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD)’s Side-Hinged Exterior Door Standard (SHEDS) in a 7-4 vote during the recent International Code Council hearings in Baltimore. The standard is titled “Testing and Rating of Static Pressure on Side-Hinged Exterior Door Systems.”

AMD says it has been developing the standard for more than a year as a small and lightweight alternative to other standards such as the North American Fenestration Standard. It addresses component interchange on a tested E330 (Standard Test Method for Structural Performance of Exterior Windows, Doors, Skylights and Curtain Walls by Uniform Static Air Pressure Difference) exterior side-hinged door system. The standard explains how to test and rate individual components using the E330 protocols and failure analysis and takes the E330 to the component level.

AMD has earned the ANSI accreditation as a national standards writer and the standard has been submitted to ANSI.

The standard was not without opposition from industry groups such as the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA). According to AAMA code consultant Julie Ruth, the association’s members feel that the SHED standard seeks to develop criteria for combining components of a door assembly into an assembly and then assigning a design pressure rating to that completed assembly through simple substitution of components.

“Testing conducted by AAMA over the course of the past two years indicates that component interchangeability in door systems is much more complex than the simple substitution method proposed by AMDS,” says Ruth. “Significant inconsistencies in overall design pressures result during door system testing using like panel, frame and glazing constructions.”

She added, “SHEDs is not the correct approach, and its use would result in erroneously rated systems.”

The door systems tested were provided by three different manufacturers and were produced with the following commonalities: overall size, type and gauge of skin material, stile material, insulating material, glass make-up, and identical lock/deadbolt. Some variables included hinges, frame/stop design, density of insulating material and IG sealants.

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) also spoke in opposition to proposal out of the same concern that the draft standard will lack adequate measures for ensuring assembly performance and that it is not an appropriate testing alternative to ASTM E330. WDMA also believes the committee’s approval of the document was unjustified because it’s in initial draft form and has had very little vetting in the industry.

“In addition to our concern over the technical merits of the draft, we are particularly disturbed by the committee’s approval of a test standard that is still under development and one that has undergone very little stakeholder review, or even from the committee that approved it that we are aware of,” says Jeff Inks, WDMA vice president of codes and regulatory affairs. “This is not a judicious approach to approving test standards for reference by building codes.”

Despite the opposition to the passage of the standard, AMD chief executive officer Rosalie Leone says the Standard will be especially beneficial to millwork pre-hangers and component manufacturers.

“It is rewarding to see our efforts in this direction will make a positive difference in the millwork industry,” says Leone.



Shelter
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