“Jessica is sad because she wants to save energy and save money. You can make her smile again…” Huh, what? Well there appears to be “a Washington proposal to change the ENERGY STAR program (that) would deny average consumers the “easy choice” on which they rely. Help us Save ENERGY STAR.” Well if one looks at the
Coalition for Home Energy Efficiency’s (CHEE) site, their cute little video, & social media blitz you might first think – Oh my, what are them Wascally Wepublicans up to now? Nope, sorry you can’t blame the Republicans… Nope, it’s not even President Obama trying to make us feel the pain over the sequester. Ahhh it’s got be the unelected bureaucrats, right… well no, not really.
While it is pretty hard to find the details on their site, the issue revolves around improving the energy efficiency of windows (Primer course on windows & NFRC label). You see while home builders are currently under version 3 (actually 3.5) of the ENERGY STAR program, windows & other items are currently on version 5 & they are protesting the changes being proposed in version 6. They claim the “proposal would reserve the ENERGY STAR label mainly for windows and skylights that use some of the most expensive technologies. This would deny average consumers the “easy choice” on which they rely…. program suddenly stops identifying energy-efficient products priced within reach of average consumers.” So what are these drastic changes?
While you might see a bunch of changes in the numbers, you will find with some digging that the primary issue is simply the Northern Climates numbers. In essence the big issue is the change from a U-Factor of .3 to .27 or essentially bumping the R-Value of the assembly from 3.3 to 3.7 is just to big of a hurdle. Why are they not worried or complaining about the other changes? Well that is because they already have those windows available. So please forgive me for simply laughing at the very last line, “ENERGY STAR has raised the bar bit by bit over time to compel consumers to buy more efficient products. That’s been good for consumers and the environment, because consumers have saved more energy and more money on utility bills. The problem with the latest proposal is that it moves too far too fast, extending the payback period too far and leaving behind too many consumers” as they are really only applying a specific payback calculation to the northern area.
Need more time?
The time argument being made by some has some validity as the effective date for the proposed changes is supposed to be January 1st, 2014. Of course with that, seeing this process started in 2012 one might think that they would already have the designs primarily worked out & ready for the NFRC testing. Along those lines, one might think that CHEE would have been formed & started making waves before April of this year?
How about the we can’t do this – the price factors & technology required will price people out of the market? While CHEE doesn’t list their backers, the WDMA (Windows & Door Manufacturing Association) & the AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association) appear to be the primary movers & shakers against this. In many ways they are just like the NAHB and in a tough spot as they represent such a wide variety of manufacturers. For many manufacturers there are numerous low cost ways of doing this with existing windows, but when those run out then you are looking at having to do a redesign and yes, that does cost some money.
Ahhh but how about the poor customer, or the “Widely available windows that currently meet the proposed new standards for much of the country are primarily triple-pane or Low-E double-pane windows that use expensive technologies to achieve the efficiency gain. And yes, they are considerably more expensive.” Well on one side of the coin, I can see that for some as mentioned above, but with that if I want to bump a window to Low E right now it generally adds $10 to the cost. Triple panes generally run right now anywhere from 5% to 25% more for like quality.
The truth of the matter
As the EPA points out “As the market responds to consumer demand for ENERGY STAR qualified products in a particular category, sales of highly efficient products increase, locking in more and more energy savings and environmental benefits over the life of those units. In the process, because of technological advances and/or reduced production costs, opportunities present themselves to raise the bar over time in terms of what constitutes a highly efficient product in a given category. In conjunction with the steady progress this approach delivers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continue to explore ways to leverage the ENERGY STAR platform to bring generational change.”
Eliminating the bureaucratese, this is them simply stating that as new means & methods become available that are cost effective they bump up the efficiency required. For many manufacturers the tightening specs made here & by code actually make their life easier as they can drop many lines & out dated options allowing them to streamline their processes. While maintaining the status quo is cheaper in the short term, long term it can cost especially when we get to the next item…
The codes have been quite nice to the manufacturers as they really haven’t had any real major shakeups that impacted them. Granted the 2012 codes got tighter after 9 years, but most manufacturers were already pushing ENERGY STAR windows which easily met those requirements.
As I have mentioned before, the 2015 code changes are already underway & since they have bumped up the wall insulation (to R25 in some cases) – and many don’t see that they can gain much more there – they are turning their eyes squarely on the fenestration (which can account for 10+% of a wall). While there are a few proposals to keep the status quo, most are looking at bumping things to a minimum of an R4 (U .25) or R5 (U .2). As the latest email from the NAHB doesn’t mention either of these proposals being bumped, it appears that not only is ENERGY STAR going to have to raise it’s bar, but so will the manufacturers before they find their window lines illegal to sell in the US.
By the way, no worries as there are plenty of windows available that already exceed code & a few appear to even be simple double pane glass… As for the rest not there yet, well you got some time, but not for long…