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May - June 2003

The Rate Debate

Convincing Homeowners 
Builders Can Help Them Purchase Efficient Windows
by Jim Benney

Whether you want to believe it or not, your competition is not other fenestration product manufacturers. As any builder can tell you, window manufacturers compete more with the bathroom and kitchen, spa and fireplace and siding and flooring industries than they do with each other. While studies show that homeowners want lots of windows, skylights and beautiful entry doors, they also show that they cannot afford to have it all. They must often choose between skylights and an upscale gourmet kitchen or between high-performance windows and a spa. 
So what can you do to help the builder choose to put more (and better) windows, doors and skylights in a house? 

Provide the Builder with Ammunition
Remember that the homebuilder has to justify his choices when presenting various models to homebuyers. Make sure that the salespeople have plenty of literature describing the benefits of windows, doors and skylights. Depending on your circumstances, these could be:

• The benefit of a beautiful view such as mountains or trees

• The availability of daylight to improve the occupants’ health and well-being;

• The ability to see what is happening outside, for the weather, safety and security; 

• The benefits of fresh air and free ventilation when desired; and/or

• The need for high-performance, energy-efficient products to assure the comfort of the occupants and reduce heating and cooling bills. 

If you are going to be effective at selling these benefits, be sure that the products you are promoting actually communicate these benefits. This may be achieved through the use of National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) labels and Energy Star® window labels. The NFRC label provides the ratings for windows, doors and skylights including U-factor, solar heat gain and visible transmittance. Without this means of communicating performance, it is more difficult to convince the builder (and eventual homeowner) that these products will perform as desired.

Know the Energy Codes 
One of the barriers for adding more fenestration products, besides the cost, is the need to meet local building codes. Many energy codes, when used prescriptively, restrict the allowable fenestration area in a home. Salespeople must be aware of the local energy codes and be prepared to provide the builder with the means to satisfy the building inspector. This can be accomplished either through trade-offs or through whole-house, energy-performance programs. Arm your salespeople with charts that show the builder how to increase fenestration area and still meet the energy code. This can be achieved by installing more energy-efficient and value-added products. There are many sources for assistance in this area (see box this page).

In addition, it is essential that windows, doors and skylights be NFRC-certified and labeled. Only with the required U-factor and solar-heat-gain ratings clearly stated on a window can a building inspector know that the product meets the requirements of the local energy code. States and local jurisdictions are updating and revising their energy codes constantly, so it pays to check at least once a year to see how the relevant codes have changed. 

The bottom line is that to sell more products to the homebuilder, you must provide them with the information they need to make the right decisions for building comfortable, energy-efficient homes. 

Additional Resources
• For more information about NFRC, visit www.nfrc.org.

• For information about energy codes and software to assist in meeting codes, visit www.energycodes.org and www.bcap-energy.org.

• For unbiased information on the benefits of energy-efficient windows, visit www.efficientwindows.org.

Jim Benney is the director of education at the National Fenestration Rating Council, based in Silver Spring, Md. 

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