Fenestration industry stakeholders and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials met in Washington, D.C., on Friday to kick off discussions about possible specification revisions to Version 7.0 of the popular Energy Star program.

Doug Anderson, EPA's Energy Star project manager, addresses industry stakeholders. (Photo by Trey Barrineau)
Doug Anderson, EPA’s Energy Star project manager, addresses industry stakeholders. (Photo by Trey Barrineau)

According to the EPA’s presentation, the purpose of the meeting was to “begin the dialogue on how to make specification revisions as collaborative and transparent as possible.”

About 30 representatives from the door and window industry attended the session at EPA headquarters. Another 31 participated via webinar.

Version 6.0 revisions for doors, windows and skylights take effect on January 1, 2015, in the U.S. except in the Northern Zone, where the prescriptive and equivalent energy performance criteria for windows will be in force on January 1, 2016.

Friday’s session, which was directed by EPA’s Energy Star project manager Doug Anderson and program technical lead Brian Booher of D&R International, consisted of discussion questions and responses.

An early one – “What changes to the specification should EPA consider in the future to realize significant national energy savings?” – received a simple, direct answer from one major industry player.

“Promote the replacement of single-pane glass,” said Joe Hayden, the certification engineer at Pella Corp. “It will save energy and create jobs.” Several attendees seconded Hayden’s idea.

Energy Star testing and verification remains a major area of concern for the fenestration industry – and for the EPA as well.

In 2012, the agency launched a testing program for fenestration products that’s administered by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). So far, more than 300 products have been tested, and the EPA hopes to test 10 percent of Energy Star product lines each year.

However, there have been problems.

“We have found issues of concern, and we have found failures,” the EPA’s Anderson said.

Steve Strawn, the product compliance manager at JELD-WEN, was more direct: “There have been labeling inconsistencies that cause you to question the program.”

Another area of concern for industry stakeholders is estimating how long it takes for consumers to recover the cost of replacing their less-efficient doors and windows with Energy Star-compliant ones.

That time frame, or payback period, can be very long, which can discourage consumers from investing in energy-efficient products.

Kerry Haglund of the Efficient Windows Collaborative in Wyoming, Minn., says her organization, which seeks to increase the use of energy-efficient windows, removed a tab from its website that helped consumers calculate payback periods for that very reason. “The energy message was good, but the cost message was not,” she said.

Most stakeholders agreed that it was important to hear what the public had to say about payback periods.

“I think what’s very important is that we get some consumer input,” said Maureen Knight, the regulatory affairs and product stewardship manager for the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.

Finally, many in the industry are still worried about the costs associated with Energy Star compliance.

“We all know the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ — ‘Build it and they will come,’” said Jim Krahn, the manager of codes and regulatory affairs at Marvin Windows. “Well, we can’t do it in six months. We can’t do it in a year. We need time. If you don’t give us time, we have to rush, and it increases costs tremendously.”

The EPA will consider all questions and comments from the meeting as it develops a new Framework Document, which is expected to be released by mid-2015. The agency wants as much data as possible from manufacturers regarding product performance, cost and availability.

After it’s released, fenestration industry representatives will have the opportunity to submit formal written comments on the Framework Document.

After reviewing the data and determining how the market responds to Energy Star Version 6.0, which won’t be fully implemented until January 1, 2016, the EPA will then consider whether or not it will begin a Version 7.0 specification revision process.

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