Verification Program Unveiled at NFRC; Manufacturers Pose Numerous Questions

March 29th, 2012 by DWM Magazine

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) met this week in Austin, Texas, for its Spring Committee Week, and the Independent Verification Program (IVP) topped the list of items garnering the most amount of discussion.

Scott Hanlon, NFRC program director, reminded members that the IVP will be a permanent addition to the organization’s rating process, advancing its ability to provide reliable energy-performance ratings. One way the IVP serves the public is by making it easy to determine which products have undergone testing, according to Hanlon.

“Consumers will see some harmonization between the IVP and our certified products directory,” he said. “Products will be flagged, clearly indicating they were selected.”

Jim Benney, NFRC CEO, pointed out the two main reasons NFRC started the IVP in a video posted on the NFRC’s website during the meeting. “First, the IVP will provide additional enhancements to the existing program,” he said. “Our job is to help the public buy energy-efficient products. We need to make sure we improve the value of our brand and the IVP allows us to do that.”

Second, ENERGY STAR has new requirements for verification testing and the IVP program enables manufacturers to meet these requirements, according to Benney. The NFRC will administer the entire IVP program, which will be fully implemented in January 2013.

It is this tight timeline, among other factors, that is worrying manufacturers, and many of these voiced their concern at the meeting. Ray Garries, Jeld-Wen, reported that in the two-hour discussion allotted to IVP at the meeting, members “lined up at the microphone” to share their concerns. This was the first time the membership could comment on the 713 document [on which IVP is based] so there were lots of questions, which is to be expected, according to Garries.

He provided some background on the NFRC program saying that the labeled values by NFRC are from thermal simulations and physical tests are only used to confirm the simulations.

“So after a simulator creates the computer model using DOE software, he has to pick one window from the product line for physical testing and that window will verify all these numbers,” he says. “So since the program started, this method is used to manage the certification of nearly eight million items in the NFRC database. So now for this new IVP program to rely on a large share of physical testing, it is like a new program.”

“How you do you correlate the physical test and its differences and tolerances being different?” asked Garries.

Gary Hartman, Chelsea Building Products, was also in attendance, and wonders “why the IVP is being put into place considering all the checks and balances and all the work that NFRC has done over the past 20 years. They put in place a simulation system–a validation system that works,” he said.

Both Garries and Hartman also talked about the fact that the EPA is pushing the NFRC to develop this program as other ENERGY STAR product categories have developed their programs and windows is the last to follow suit.

“Most other ENERGY STAR certified products, such as appliances, jumped into a simple verification program but we [windows] couldn’t do a simple program,” said Garries. “This IVP has 15 pages of rules and everyone is tense because the EPA has a strict deadline.”

To summarize an old adage, Garries said the NFRC is “between a rock and a hard place.”

“The staff is in a tough spot because windows and doors have the most complicated compliance methods out there that are so complex,” he said. “So they are taking a very complicated system and doing it quickly and it is very tough. They need to keep the same level of fairness and not give up the level of accuracy and not cause a problem for inspectors. I don’t envy them.”

Hartman pointed out another major concern of manufacturers: the cost of doing business. “They are adding five layers of documentation and complexity and that is now being added into the cost of doing business,” he said.

“We went through product labeling, IG certification, now IVP,” said Hartman. “Our concern is that as the federal government gets more and more involved it continues to add additional cost to the manufacturer and will be passed to the consumer. IG certification took some manufacturers out of the IG business and in some cases out of the window and door business. This could be another tipping point for small and regional manufacturers,” he said.

The other event that may happen, according to Hartman, is that a manufacturer decides to stop making windows and just sell them. “Or they say, “ENERGY STAR isn’t as important to me so I will walk away from that program, but then they lose that marketing advantage … I think NFRC understands that I don’t think EPA cares. They want to reduce the number of companies who participate in ENERGY STAR and give it more exclusivity.”

But the IVP program is happening and Chelsea Building Products, for one, will work to educate its customers on this program.

As far as the NFRC’s response to feedback gained at the meeting, Benney told DWM magazine that, “The board of directors listened closely to the feedback from the IVP forum, and I am sure that they will be communicating a response to this feedback in the near future.”

 

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