Senior Technical Services Representative
Quanex Building Products
August 20th, 2021
Is Energy Star Version 7.0 the Catalyst for Future-Proofing Your Business?
In the Shop Talk blog, we’ve talked a lot about the here and now: how to be more productive with fewer employees, health and safety in the COVID-19 era and tips to improve quality and efficiency. We’re all focused on how we get through the next day or week, and we need to be.
But for today’s tip we would like to propose: We can’t take our eyes off the future—more specifically, the future of energy performance.
As most of us are aware, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the initial draft of Energy Star Version 7.0 with anticipated finalization in January 2022 that would go into effect in 2023 or 2024.
When reviewing, I looked specifically at the Northern Zone, because 1.) it covers the largest portion of the U.S., and 2.) its new performance criteria will require major changes to achieve. In its current state, Version 7.0 would require a 0.22 U-factor or better and a solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) of 0.17 or higher in the Northern Zone.
To many reading this, these numbers seem virtually unattainable and would require significant retooling and design modifications to achieve. And the costs for doing so might seem out of reach at the moment.
How Is the Industry Responding?
As part of the review process, industry associations and individual manufacturers are working on responses to the EPA regarding the new 7.0 criteria. Responses are mixed, but a common perspective seems to be that the industry needs time to tool up and implement available technologies that enable manufacturers to achieve these performance levels at costs that are acceptable to consumers. However, there’s a distinct possibility that the current draft will move forward, and manufacturers will need to find ways to either adapt or opt out of the Energy Star program.
How Achievable Is the Current Draft of Energy Star Version 7.0?
As I looked at the draft specification requirements, I decided to run some modeling to see what it would take to achieve the performance needed in the Northern Zone—again, I focused here because it impacts so much of the U.S.
What I found was that, while the 0.22 base for U-factor is out of reach for a double-pane IGU, it’s possible to meet the SHGC equivalencies with certain configurations. However, it is very difficult and will likely involve premium low-E on two surfaces, foam-filled high-performance vinyl frames, true warm-edge spacers and gas filling. In my research, the more likely scenarios to hit the requirements would be one of the following: standard triples and argon, thin-glass triples and krypton or hybrid vacuum insulating glass (VIG).
The modeling seems to indicate that, under the currently proposed Version 7.0 criteria, many manufacturers will need to go through a significant redesign to continue using the Energy Star label. So, what’s next?
Adapting Is Inevitable
In all the discussions around Energy Star Version 7.0, one thing is for certain: Energy codes and requirements never go backward. Whatever is established in this version will be the baseline for the next. IECC and other code-establishing bodies, whether nationally or locally, will continue to raise the bar in terms of the performance we can achieve.
There are technologies on the horizon that will take us to new levels of performance—but it’s not yet cost-effective enough to be feasible. Consumers have a threshold of what they’re willing to pay, and it’s our job to balance the performance and the numbers so the ROI makes sense for homeowners. We just aren’t there yet with some of these emerging technologies, but they are coming and could be ready in time to meet Energy Star 8.0 to reach even lower U-factors than what is currently proposed.
The bottom line? Energy Star Version 7.0 is just an indication of what’s to come. As the saying goes, at some point you can’t kick the can down the street any farther. So, as we work to make the best of the day-to-day and seize the opportunities right in front of us, we must continue to look forward for opportunities to future-proof our businesses and to stay ahead of the curve by adopting new energy-improving designs.