Plavecsky's Ponderings By Jim Plavecsky
by Jim Plavecsky
February 19th, 2020

Energy Star Beyond 2020 – Will it Intensify or Fizzle?

Back in 2017, [DWM] ran a poll, titled: “If Energy Star Goes Away Would Privatization Be Okay? I remember being surprised back then at how many respondents were in favor of letting Energy Star fall by the wayside. So, lately I have been discussing with colleagues the possible ramifications that could come as a result of the 2020 presidential election. Depending upon which political party wins the White House in November, Energy Star could either regain the momentum it’s lost over the past few years, or, on the other hand, it could possibly fizzle out altogether.

In past years, when talking to my customers about their perceptions of Energy Star, most of the manufacturers I spoke to viewed it as a necessary evil. Lately, however, I am surprised by how many view it as an unnecessary evil.

Yet I remember what it was like marketing door and window systems before the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and Energy Star came along. The industry lacked a set of standard procedures for evaluating the thermal performance attributes of competing doors and windows. The result was that each door and window company had a different spin on it, which led to much confusion at the consumer level.

So, if Energy Star were to fizzle out due to a lack of funding by the government, what could take its place? Well, now that the standard testing protocols have been established, we have a situation where an equal playing field is here to stay. Fenestration test labs have become highly profitable businesses, so we all know they aren’t going anywhere.

We might just end up in a situation where specific u-values, and solar heat gain coefficients are no longer requirements to display an “energy efficient” label. Instead, door and window manufacturers could display their own labels and simply show these values along with the test methods used to determine the results. It would be up to the consumer to educate him or herself regarding the proper test methods and ultimately decide whether or not the reported values fit their individual needs.

This would still be a huge difference versus the way energy efficiency of windows was reported prior to the inception of the NFRC. Back then, a standard method of measuring and reporting u-values for all door and window systems did not exist. Reporting and advertising u-values in various manners was done according to whatever made your product look best. The result was misinformation at the consumer level and frustration among many door and window manufacturers. They felt like they were playing in a game without rules.

So, beyond 2020, even if the Energy Star program and its labels fizzle out, we will still have a situation where standard methods and test protocols remain for the accurate determination of energy performance, so that fair comparisons can be made. It will just be up to the individual consumer to decide what values are good enough for them versus, the government making this determination. If the opposite scenario plays out, Energy Star will probably intensify, with even lower (more stringent) requirements for u-value in order to wear the Energy Star label. In either case, it is bound to be an interesting ride, so hold on!

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  1. If ENERGY STARS goes, the ability of consumers to compare brands easily will go with it. ENERGY STAR (in Canada at least) provides a one stop location where one can sift through brands, styles and performance factors. Ending this would be a real loss.

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