Energy Star 2016 is just around the corner. Are you prepared?

The past few months I have been talking with many window manufacturers who were making last-minute modifications to their product lines as well as associated changes to their manufacturing process as well.

Some window manufacturers (let’s call them Type A) invested in new extrusion designs that are optimized for achieving the lowest frame conductivity. These designs also offer greater flexibility, allowing for the use of thicker glass packages to accommodate both double- and triple-pane configurations. These manufacturers are set for the long term. If Energy Star standards get tougher down the road, they will be in the best position to react quickly.

Then there are the manufacturers who stayed with existing frame designs while doing whatever they could to rally around those with more energy efficient spacers, combined with lower emissivity coatings and possibly even foam insertion. These companies (let’s call them Type B) are barely hitting the Northern Zone numbers, but are doing so without sacrificing condensation resistance. They are set for now, but should U-value standards go lower down the road, they will be forced to eventually upgrade their frame design or go to fourth-surface low-e coatings with a corresponding sacrifice in condensation resistance.

The third category is the manufacturer (let’s call the Type C) who made very few changes other than switching to a fourth-surface low-e coating in order to make the Northern Zone number. Taking this approach will get this manufacturer’s windows at or below the 0.27 U-value mark for the Northern Zone, but not without a significant sacrifice in condensation resistance (CR) rating.

When 2016 arrives and all of these manufacturers are competing in the marketplace, each will sport the Energy Star label, but each took a different route to get there. So who wins in the sales arena? Are we selling vanilla windows? Will customers simply see an Energy Star label on each and then go straight to the price tags?

I sure hope not. In fact, to some extent I miss the good old days, before Energy Star standards existed. That was when window companies sold their windows based on each and every feature and benefit their windows had to offer and did not concentrate so heavily upon a U-value label. Earlier in the year, I had lunch with a veteran window salesman who went through his sales pitch with me. He started with the screen. He explained to the homeowner that if his window company put so much thought into the quality and design of its screen, which is oftentimes an afterthought, then just think of how great the rest of his window was going to be.

So, who captures a greater market share – Type A, Type B or Type C? Well, the Type A window company, with a more modern frame design, certainly has more weapons in the arsenal to adapt to various market segments with corresponding price points that will win the day. Type A also has the ability to offer designs with a wider choice of IG thicknesses, which optimizes both thermal performance and CR ratings at various price points. Improved sound attenuation ratings are also a possibility because of thicker IG glass pack options. Then there is the Type B window company. B still has a lot to talk about with superior spacer technology, foam-filled frames, double-stack or triple-stack low-e offerings and decent CR ratings. Lastly, the Type C window company has the Energy Star label to talk about. Type C meets Energy Star, but with fourth-surface low-w coatings, you won’t see C talking much about CR ratings, which will be very low. Don’t get me wrong — Type C may have many other window features to talk about as well, but it will likely be at a disadvantage when comparing CR ratings.

Now let’s not forget a fourth category of window manufacturer, which will likely be growing in numbers next year, and this is the manufacturer marketing a non-Energy Star-compliant window, albeit at a lower price point. What? Market a non-Energy Star-compliant window? Well, when you think about it, this category (let’s call it Manufacturer Z) was supposed to represent 75 percent of the market when the U.S. Department of Energy originally conceived the Energy Star program. Energy Star windows were supposed to represent the cream of the crop, but when the government started tying tax rebates to Energy Star labels, it quickly became a table stake of sorts.

Now that window tax credits are at a much lower level and Energy Star requirements are much tougher to achieve, 2016 will likely see a significant increase in the Type Z window manufacturers, who will sell their windows with every other feature and benefit they can think of without meeting Energy Star. It will be very interesting to see to what degree of success the Type Zs can achieve. I have one customer who has done this from the beginning. He hasn’t sold a single Energy Star-compliant window. He uses a quality extrusion, low-e glass, the best warm edge spacer on the market, and his own homegrown marketing campaign. His business has been growing at a double-digit pace the last few years.

So there you have it. With tougher Energy Star standards being rolled out in 2016, we will see a separation of sorts, with various types of window manufacturers and their approach to meeting Energy Star or to not meeting Energy Star. We will also see a return to an increased focus on marketing and sales tactics based upon selling all of the many other features a window has to offer.

Let the games begin!

1 Comment

  1. A good example of government making something worse because of regulations. Price is still the determining factor for a lot of building supplies because people want immediate savings rather than wait for a period of years to recoup costs through energy conservation.

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