July 15th, 2021
Energy Star 7.0: Inconvenience or Opportunity?
Door and window manufacturers are busier than ever right now. Many are experiencing a record number of orders and backorders. But in the heat of the battle, when the smoke clears and 2021 is over, the lay of the land will have changed. New Energy Star Requirements will be in place.
I was in Sarasota on vacation last week, sitting on the beach and reading [DWM]’s update from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Draft 1 for Energy Star 7.0. I read the draft and pondered the consequences.
One thing that really caught my eye, especially, was the proposed numbers for the Northern climate zone, where the U-value is proposed to go from the current requirement of 0.27 to 0.22 for both windows and sliding glass doors. It is also proposed to be 0.24 in the North-Central zone. [Should they be enacted] these numbers reflect some very aggressive changes.
Sure, higher U-value numbers will be permissible in conjunction with higher solar heat gain coefficients (SHGC), since windows with higher SHGC are more effective at collecting solar heat during the winter. But still the net result will be the need for many window manufacturers to dramatically reduce overall window U-values to keep the Energy Star label on their windows.
So what technologies are available to help door and window manufacturers accomplish this? Well, new low-E glass coatings may help and low-E glass is available in double- and triple-stack configurations (the number of silver layers). The more silver layers the better. Warm-edge spacers are also available to help cut down on heat transfer through the edge of the insulating glass unit (IGU) and the spacers made with the least amount of metal or no metal at all are better. Gas filling is available and gases with the lowest thermal conductivity and propensity for convection are best, such as krypton. Vinyl profiles are perhaps the toughest component to change because of tooling costs associated with such changes. However, many door and window fabricators are still using older platforms that offer limited ability to accommodate thicker insulating glass units that are associated with the adoption of triple pane technology. Changes here will be necessary!
It is clear that [should the currently proposed requirements be enacted] the use of triple pane insulating glass technology, coupled with state of the art low-E coatings and use of krypton gas, will be needed in many instances in order to meet these new Energy Star requirements. Newer, more advanced frame profiles, with lower thermal conductivity and wider glazing pockets to accommodate triple pane units, will be necessary to meet future Energy Star criteria. Heavier IGUs will also require sturdier hardware to accommodate the additional weight associated with triple pane IG. “Skinny triples” may be one way to get around the greater width and weight requirements so this will also be a technology worth looking into.
One thing is for certain: the pendulum in the White House is swinging back in the direction of energy conservation, so the EPA is acting accordingly. This means that the Energy Star requirements will likely get even tougher to meet in the years ahead. There are two ways to view this. One viewpoint is that it will be a big inconvenience, as there will be more design and manufacturing changes necessary to keep up with Energy Star requirements. A second way of looking at this is by considering it as a huge opportunity. Right now, virtually every door and window company can meet Energy Star requirements. Moving forward, this may not be the case. This means that if you can adapt while others cannot, then you will gain a competitive advantage.
It’s no different than the story of evolution. Those that adapt will survive. Those that do not may disappear. Which will you be?