February 6th, 2023
They Are Not Your Grandparents’ Windows
This time last year, National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) launched a campaign to encourage more people—builders, remodelers, architects, individual homeowners and others—to not take the state of their windows for granted. The campaign has had success with several national organizations, industry groups and magazines, and a few manufacturers are joining the effort. But there is a way to go yet. As I mentioned last year, many of the improvements made in window technology are invisible by design.
I once heard a speaker point out how significant the advancements in car technology have been in the last 30 years. He asked how many would want to be driving the cars that their grandparents drove 30 years ago. The next question was, “Are you still looking out of your grandparents’ windows?”
I wish I remembered who that speaker was so I could credit him with the question because it truly made me, and I suspect many attendees, consider this in a new light.
The truth is, unless there are obvious signs of damage or failure, such as broken panes or water leaking in during rain, windows are still overlooked in the priority of a home’s health. People don’t realize how much efficiency, convenience, safety and other areas have been improved because they still just don’t see it—even when pointed out.
I have a friend who lived in a beautiful old home in a historic neighborhood in New York state. Their winter heating bills averaged $800-$900 each month. To combat the cold, they admitted to limiting their living areas to two rooms in the winter, the kitchen and a den they have sealed off from the rest of the house. They also had a gas fireplace installed in the den, at no small cost.
I repeatedly pointed out that they could improve all of this if they just replaced the old, original, single-pane windows. There are no storm windows. Most of the windows no longer open. The draft from each is significant. And, for a change, money isn’t a concern. While not a family-inherited home, in many ways they truly are looking out of their grandparents’ windows.
After six years, they finally see it. They are now interviewing remodelers in the hopes of replacing all of their windows this summer.
So, what was the six-year hang up? Having witnessed the process, I can say there was one primary roadblock: they truly did not see the correlation between their windows and their indoor comfort. To a non-industry person, it’s “just glass.” As that is the limit of their understanding, replacing glass with glass isn’t going to make much of a difference. When they look at a window, they see the opening and have no idea there may be multiple panes of glass, glass coatings, gas filling, intricate and insulated frames, and more. Every other area of the home was tackled before the windows—new roof, new siding, new insulation, new HVAC, and even the new gas fireplace.
A hard truth for our industry is that no one is interested in learning about something they don’t know they need. In today’s environment, people are bombarded with information from all directions so catching their attention is going to come down to luck or being in the right place at exactly the right time.
Of course, the internet makes it easier to catch people at the right time. The savvy consumer is doing research before making purchases and, in particular, large purchases. This was at least part of the rationale for the NFRC purchase of the Efficient Windows Collaborative and the EfficientWindows.org website in 2020. Updating the content based on what their search terms are, providing features such as the Window Selection Tool, and taking steps to be number one in search results for people looking for unbiased information on windows, helps NFRC meet one of our main responsibilities as a 501(c)(3) organization.
But this will be easier if we are all working together to educate people with the same message: why windows matter. Some major voices have expressed an intention to join the campaign this year, and we welcome all efforts.