Just when you thought it was safe to decide how to manufacture a window, new legislation proposals are in the air to once again stir things up in the door and window industry.Earlier this year, the industry was stunned when literally over night, legislation was put into place bypassing the existing ENERGY STAR requirements with a law providing tax credits for windows meeting a u-value of .30 or less in combination with a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) with the same requirement. Many, including myself criticized this legislation as seemingly being hastily decided especially with respect to the “one size fits all” requirement for solar heat gain coefficient. After all, in much of the United States, a higher SHGC can actually help to lower annual energy consumption by taking advantage of passive solar radiation during the winter months.

Now cometh senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to the rescue with a new piece of legislation aimed at correcting matters. The Rockefeller-Grassley bill (S.1792) is intended to replace the .30/.30 standard for the $1,500 tax credit with the 2010 ENERGY STAR® standards for windows, doors and skylights. It would apply to purchases in 2010.

Now, the 2010 ENERGY STAR requirements have been finalized by the Department of Energy and are scheduled to go into effect on January 4th of 2010. These requirements certainly make more sense than the .30/.30 plan especially as it relates to the use of a single SHGC for all areas. However, what about all of the window manufacturers who stepped up to the plate to get their U-values down to a .30? During recessionary times, these window manufacturers made significant investments in new technology and/or new manufacturing methods to get their u-values to the .30/.30 U-value standard. Many of them switched to different glass types, perhaps soft-coat low-E, which may have required an investment in edge deletion equipment. Others switched to “warmer-edge” spacer types and consequently may have had to invest in new machinery in order to manufacture IG with these new spacers. Still others purchased machinery to inject foam into their framing systems. In addition, many of these manufacturers also had to pay more money to re-simulate their NFRC U-values after the changes were made, and finally they had to spend even more money to change literature, modify websites, train salespeople and inform dealers of the new programs, all aimed at giving their company that competitive edge given the new .30/.30 playing field.

Meanwhile, what about those manufacturers who chose not to react to the new .30/.30 requirements? Maybe they just figured, “We will shoot for the less demanding ENERGY STAR criteria and instead of investing in new technology to hit 30/30, we will just meet and promote ENERGY STAR, and maybe offer some pricing discounts to help the consumer save money on the spot. We can save money by not investing the extra money in new technology/processes. This will enable us to offer an ENERGY STAR labeled window and perhaps we can just offer discounts to save the consumer an equal amount of money without the hassle of dealing with the extra paperwork to go for the tax credit.” If the Rockefeller-Grassley bill ends up becoming law, this latter group of manufacturers will surely have the last laugh!

And what about looking beyond 2010? All of the sudden it is looking pretty fuzzy! The EPA is taking over where the DOE left off, and perhaps a new group of people will be deciding Phase II of the ENERGY STAR and “Super Star” requirements. The only hint we have, so far, is that U-value requirements are probably going to get even lower, and triple pane IG may become extremely popular in the northern half of the country.

One thing seems for certain. Perhaps the best investment the window industry can make for the future is to hire political lobbyists to ensure that future legislation has the best interests of both the manufacturers as well as consumers in mind, and also to help make sure Washington gets it right before signing it into law!

3 Comments

  1. […] CLICK HERE to read Jim Plavecsky’s blog, which focuses on the legislation. […]

  2. The thought has always been “YA SNOOZE YA LOSE”. now it appears manufactures that snoozed may have won!

  3. The window industry is operating in a much more politically infused environment. The keys to success are no longer simply providing a value to the consumer, but in taking advantage of the government incentives. The energy tax credits have been favorable for industry despite the irony that they actually increased energy consumption in the northern portion of the country by prohibiting consumers from taking advantage of passive solar heat. The costs of compliance with .30/.30 in northern markets were modest considering the benefits gained from the taxpayer-funded subsidies of replacement windows. The proposed legislation to revert back to the ENERGY STAR requirements is a move towards more rational use of taxpayer funds. After all the credits should encourage the public to make sound decisions where there is an economic payback in the value of the energy saved.

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