Energy Star Drives the Market
The EPA’s Energy Star program is seen as a huge boon to the drive for greater acceptance of greener fenestration in the residential market—but one that has had the effect of focusing homeowners’ attention on energy efficiency rather than other green issues such as recyclability or sustainable manufacturing.
“What we see as a primary driver [for adoption of green fenestration products] is the Energy Star program,” says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing at Ply Gem Windows, Cary, N.C. “It has exceptionally high consumer brand recognition. And both manufacturers and builders are using that as one method by which they can communicate the sustainability or the ‘green’ aspect of their products and/or projects.”
With more than 80 percent of windows sold today Energy Star-certified, few would deny the success of Energy Star in promoting energy efficiency. This year, the program added a new “gold standard” for energy efficiency in residential windows: its “most efficient” designation (residential doors and skylights are excluded).
And consumers’ response? “They’re not looking for the Energy Star ‘most efficient’—if they’re even aware of it,” says Bob Maynes, director of marketing and international sales at Mathews Brothers Co., Belfast, Maine. “Our customers tend to have that comfort level with Energy Star-qualified product, as opposed to acquiring the additional expense of its ‘most efficient.’”
Tyson Schwartz, vice president of sales and marketing at Soft-Lite Windows, Streetsboro, Ohio, concurs. “That most-efficient Energy Star category is starting to gain a little bit of traction. But the challenge is—while people like it and they like to hear about it—if they have to pay more, they’re just not receptive to it yet.”
“You have to make sure that they do get a return—that the [cost of] that product doesn’t outweigh how much will be returned in true energy savings,” says Elizabeth Souders, director of product marketing at Jeld-Wen, Klamath Falls, Ore.
Other manufacturers, and their customers, are apparently less concerned with the payback period. “People don’t talk like they used to about payback,” says Terry Rex, vice president of sales and marketing for B.F. Rich Windows & Doors, Newark, Del. “I haven’t had payback questions in three or four years.”
B.F. Rich sells an optional Green Shield package on three-quarters of its product lines, consisting of six upgrades—among them heatcontrol Ag3 soft-coat low-E insulating glass, antimicrobial treated weather seals and self-cleaning glass. According to Rex, 50 percent of his customers in those product lines opt for the green upgrades. “Everybody out there is peddling Energy Star-compliant windows. The step-up is from a baseline Energy Star-compliant window—that’s really the starting point. Frankly,” he adds, “Energy Star guidelines are about to become insignificant because you’re going to have energy codes that are more stringent than Energy Star.”
When asked whether vinyl’s image among some industry observers as less than green is a concern going forward, manufacturers—all of which use vinyl to one degree or another—categorically reject the question’s underlying assumption.
“We consider vinyl to be a green technology,” says Soft-Lite’s Schwartz. “It costs less to manufacture, and the products are very energy-efficient.” Where the industry might have fallen short is in its recycling of the material, but it is quickly making headway in that regard, he adds. “We do a much better job of recycling our vinyl than we did five years ago,” Schwartz says.
A lifecycle analysis of vinyl reveals it as a “very, very smart choice,” Pickering says. “If you have a wood window, you’ve got to maintain it, which includes painting it probably every three to five years over its lifetime. So if you think of the lifetime of the window as 25-40 years, you’re talking about five or six cycles of having to take a VOC-heavy paint and painting all the windows…as opposed to vinyl, which you can clean with some mild dish soap once a year.”
Source: Window + Door