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Winter  2001

            We Have the Power!
by Alan Campbell

When the average consumer hears about energy shortages, he automatically fixates on the need for development of new energy sources. We in the window and door industry, instead, should look to the products we market to aid the nation in its quest for sufficient energy today and tomorrow. In fact, we may hold in our hands a trump card that will not only ease the strain today, but also provide a partial solution for the future energy needs of our country.

Not-So-Simple Solutions
By now everyone is well aware of the rolling blackouts that plague the Western part of our country. The problem has been covered thoroughly in the media and has been attributed primarily to a mismatch between the demands for energy and the supplies available. This represents an overly simplistic statement of the problem. It also suggests a simplistic solution—just find more sources of power and the problem is solved.

This somewhat naïve approach to eliminating energy shortages is fraught with peril. For one thing, the development of more power plants is a costly solution. Furthermore, it does not address the present need so much as promise a better tomorrow. It frequently can take as much as a decade to plan and build a new power plant and bring it on stream.

A second option, and one usually touted by the copywriters for utility company advertising, is simply to use less power. Turn off the lights and ratchet up the temperature in the summer and down in the winter, and presto, the problem will go away. This approach promises less power usage, but it also suggests that American consumers are inclined to be less comfortable for the sake of reducing energy demand. Some may be willing to follow this course but recent history suggests many are not.

Viable Solution
Where then do we find an answer? As I suggested earlier, we may already have a partial solution available. Today’s energy-efficient windows and doors, along with those in development for tomorrow, provide the potential for a relatively quick amelioration of the problem today and a long-range fix for tomorrow.

If we are to realize the full potential inherent in these products, we need to become more proactive in touting them, both to builders and to the eventual consumer. The problem that we face concerns the fact that upgraded windows and doors just aren’t as glamorous as a spa bath or a home theater or a fully equipped home office and computer center. All are great, of course, but generally speaking, these add to the energy consumption problem.

Windows and doors with energy saving features such as low-E glass, gas-filled cavities and warm-edge technology, are already available on the market. They don’t just hold great promise. When these are installed properly in new construction or in remodeled or renovated homes and apartments, they lower the need for energy. The future looks even brighter (if you’ll excuse the pun) with the so-called “super window” under development. Early studies suggest that the improved performance of such windows can actually result in energy costs lower than those for a house with no windows at all.

The key, of course, is that we as an industry must aggressively market the products we already have and be ready to strongly advocate new technologies as they come on stream—things such as active and passive control systems and other new technologies.

Energy shortages are very real. They already affect the West Coast and soon will impact the Southwest as well. Our industry can be a big part of the solution. As Steve Selkowitz of the Windows and Daylight Group at the University of California’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory points out, “We must become a player in the formulation of a national energy policy.” Let’s get going. 

Alan J. Campbell, CAE, serves as president of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association, based in Des Plaines, Ill.


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