Willingness to listen to industry concerns has yielded an updated version of Energy Star Version 6.0 requirements that, at one point, had the potential to significantly cut the number of units eligible for the program.
According to the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA), early drafts of Energy Star Version 6.0, which rolls out in January, put such stringent U-factor and solar heat gain coefficients (SHGC) into effect that it could have resulted in a Energy Star products reaching “a market share of less than 50 percent,” compared with the 80 percent market share Energy Star windows currently have.
“Especially in the northern zones, which represent such a large area, we were concerned that the cost of the product would become so cost-prohibitive for consumers that they wouldn’t buy Energy Star products, and they wouldn’t have anywhere to turn,” explains Jeff Inks, vice president of code and regulatory affairs for WDMA.
Kevin Vilhaur, engineering manager at Tacoma, Wash-based Milgard agrees. “It’s difficult to get a customer to purchase an Energy Star product that’s more expensive if there’s no justification,” he says. “Some people may buy them because they want to be environmentally conscious, but if they can’t see the energy savings, it’s much more difficult.”
Inks says WDMA and the industry are “generally supportive of where the requirements are now.” In back-and-forth discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), WDMA asked for substantiation of data the agency used to support U-factor and SHGC changes to determine that the new values would be cost-effective within the the timeframe allotted for manufacturers to meet the new criteria.
“We’re at a point now where products and homes are becoming so efficient that we’re really pushing the limits,” Inks says. “Not the limits of where the technology can go, but of how quickly we can get there. It takes time.” To address concerns, EPA ultimately adjusted the implementation date for the northern zone by a full year to January 1, 2016. The U-factor called for the North Central region was also increased to 0.3 rather than 0.29.
Despite frustrations with the process, manufacturers say they’re prepared to meet the timeline for Version 6.0, though the phased rollout causes some concerns.
“We’ll see criteria in 2015 for three regions that’s different from the northern region, where performance levels are getting more aggressive,” says Christine Marvin, director of marketing for Warroad, Minn.–based Marvin Windows & Doors. “The solutions manufacturers come up with for the first phase won’t necessarily translate for the second phase.”
Both Marvin Windows and Milgard report that their product lines have been updated to the point where the brands will be able to meet northern 2016 criteria at the time of the 2015 rollout for the three other regions. Iowa-based Pella Corp. also says the vast majority of its product lines will be Energy Star compliant.
“Some product lines have very little or nothing to change to reach the new criteria, while others did take some level of effort,” says Kevin Gaul, acting director of industry and regulatory affairs for Pella. In many cases, both Gaul and Marvin say glazing options make the difference when it comes to achieving a given energy standard. At Milgard, some changes to frame materials and the addition of foam inserts helped product lines meet goals.
Across the board, manufacturers say they’re working closely with their dealers—and with builders and their buyers down the line—to ensure selecting the right window for the project. “We have all the data in our quote system so our dealers know if a product doesn’t qualify,” Marvin says. Taking advantage of that information will be useful to builders no matter what code they’re following. for the program.