Volume 8, Issue 9 - October 2007
Significant Challenges Lie Ahead for Reducing Energy
Intense efforts are underway around the nation, including the building industry, to reduce energy consumption and minimize environmental impacts. New laws are being considered, energy codes are being modified and voluntary programs are getting tougher. Fenestration energy performance improvements traditionally have involved increasing insulating values by lowering the rate of heat loss (U-factor) in the north, and reducing the solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) in the south. In today’s climate of new federal lawmaking, possible revisions to the national energy codes and updates to Energy Star® criteria, we can expect a dramatic alteration in the fenestration industry’s landscape.
An additional energy-focused bill has passed in the house and is now on the Senate’s calendar. H.R. 3221: New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act. This bill contains language that, if passed, will change building energy efficiency requirements in the following significant ways:
National Energy Codes
Many in the fenestration industry may be asking themselves a variety of questions as DOE prepares to change Energy Star requirements and as Congress considers energy legislation. Some of these include the following.
What are we willing to support to improve nationwide residential and commercial energy efficiency?
How aggressive will we be with Energy Star?
Energy Star is a voluntary performance consideration and a factor in many door and window decisions, but highly sensitive to cost justification. How would the fenestration industry prefer to set the future minimum U-factor requirement for Energy Star qualified windows for northern climate zone(s)? Would we support a 10-percent improvement in U-factor to 0.32, 15-percent improvement to 0.30, 30-percent improvement to 0.25?
Should the industry support a mandatory minimum performance requirement for doors and windows?
The federal government regulates minimum energy efficiency standards for numerous household appliances, and these minimums often are revised to be more aggressive. For example, the mandatory minimum energy efficiency of home central air conditioners was changed by federal law in 2006, from a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of 10 to a SEER of 13—a 30-percent improvement.
Would we support a mandatory maximum U-factor for northern climates and mandatory maximum SHGC for southern climates?
Is our industry willing to follow Canada’s example in British Columbia by encouraging legislation that would require all manufactured doors and windows to meet minimum performance requirements? In British Columbia it will be illegal to manufacture or import manufactured fenestration products with a U-factor of more than 0.35 (2.0 W/m2*K) effective January 1, 2009.
Alternatively, should we support a “corporate annual fuel efficiency” minimum for fenestration products?
This is the complex avenue the federal government took in the automotive industry. If the federal government is successful in passing the proposed energy efficiency legislation, we will see significant changes in the fenestration landscape. It is in our best interest to be creative and align government efforts with our industry needs and by continuing to build collaborative partnerships for all stakeholders.
John Woestman serves as consultant, codes and regulatory compliance, for the Window and Door Manufacturers Association. Mr. Woestman’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.