The Department of Energy (DOE) announced today that it plans to market the R5 Volume Purchase program aggressively, and offered additional details on the program during a webinar titled “”Cost-Effective Triple Pane (R-5) and Low-e Storm Windows — Available Now.”

The speakers highlighted DOE’s effort to bring affordable triple-pane and low-E storm windows to the marketplace at a competitive price (search and type in R5 in the search site box for various articles DWM magazine has written on the subject.).

Speakers included Marc LaFrance, technology manager for Building Envelope and Windows Research and Development, DOE, who talked about the purpose of the program.

“All of these policies are so triple-pane windows become more cost-effective,” said LaFrance. “What is cost-effective? Most windows in program have a U- factor of .22 or lower (depending on whether they are fixed or operable) and the price would have to be lower than $4 per square foot.”

LaFrance talked about some of the DOE’s research including whole building performance and stressed to attendees that utilization of R5 windows reduces costs of the HVAC system, duct work, etc.

On the manufacturing side, LaFrance pointed out that the DOE has been working with manufacturers on production issues, “to help them develop high-volume factories.”

While GED received the first round of awards, LaFrance said that the DOE just made a recent award to TRACO for commercial products.

LaFrance also commented on the R-value versus U-value debate, which has come up again in the industry in recent weeks (CLICK HERE for related article.)

“All windows have to be based on a whole window U-factor,” said LaFrance. “We use the term R5 to give people a general perspective of window performance. It also gives people perspective of how windows relate to other building components with R values.”

He also cautioned manufacturers from offering misleading information when it comes to R-values.

“We know that there are some companies who report center-of-glass performance, such as R- value of 15 and this very misleading. This program requires whole window performance,” said LaFrance.

Nils Petermann, project manager, Efficient Windows Collaborative, Alliance to Save Energy, also pointed out to attendees that R5 windows will make the biggest impact “when there is a substantial heating season.”

When Graham Parker, senior staff engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, addressed webinar attendees, one of the items he stressed is that awards were not made to manufacturers based on price.

“You could offer whatever you were comfortable with,” he said. “Prices may not –be increased during the program, but, of course, then can be decreased [if a manufacturer chooses to do so].”

He also pointed out that prices are not listed by vendor. Additionally, Terry Mapes, engineer for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said that 95 percent of the products offered by manufacturers are vinyl-based and that the products had to be offered in at least white. Some manufacturers may offer additional colors and this may or may not require an extra cost, as that is up to the manufacturer. (CLICK HERE for more info)

Many of the speakers stressed that buyers will have to do research.

“It’s not set up like Amazon or,” said Mapes. The site offers list prices, but does not include shipping, taxes, etc. However, the site is set up so that buyers can choose based on shipping regions to help narrow down the search.

Phase Two of the program, which will be looked at next year, may incorporate different window types, possibly including a solar heat gain coefficient requirement, and may even expand into the commercial market, said Mapes.

But for now, the DOE needs to work to get the word out concerning Phase One and Jason Bogovich, manager of Energetics Inc., said he welcomes input from the industry on how to do that.

“We value your input and we will be transparent through the entire process,” he said.

He reported that stakeholders and partners will work to get the message out to possible buyers and that includes three regional workshops that are in the works, though locations have not yet been set.

“We will be very aggressive in getting out on the street and marketing the program,” Bogovich added.

Many attendees had questions about price, but Parker reiterated that the “prices are quite wide-ranging” and clarified that are “no subsidies to vendors.”

“We know manufacturers have been working for several years on this to lower manufacturing costs,” said Parker. “We are simply using market forces to bring high-performance products to market at lower prices.” (He gave examples of industries in which this method has worked, including fluorescent lamps and the early days of front-load washing machines.)

“The whole point is to offer these at an affordable price,” added LaFrance, while clarifying that the program works best for buyers in a mixed climate—not really a Southern climate, etc.

“Obviously this program doesn’t address all window types. It’s to get to mainstream and to offer at an affordable price,” said LaFrance.

The webinar attracted more than 400 attendees. The target audience was any organization that purchases windows in large volume, including weatherization agencies, housing authorities, builders, contractors and distributors.

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