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August  2004

The Cutting Edge

High-Performance Windows to the Rescue
by Jim Plavecsky

I love reading window magazines. But I also love to read about what is going on with the world. So, every month I pick up National Geographic as well. The June issue is quite interesting. The cover story is titled, “The End of Cheap Oil.” 

Dwindling Oil Supply 
Tim Appenzellar writes about how the world’s thirst for oil keeps growing steadily, while the supply of cheap or easy obtainable oil is declining steadily. He cites economist Robert Kaufman who says that in our lifetime we will have to deal with a peak in the supply of this cheap oil and this will represent a turning point in which we will have to deal with a dwindling supply of expensive oil. 

The scariest part of this article is a chart that shows an increasingly widening gap between U.S. production of crude oil versus our consumption of oil, including all products made from it. It shows the projected U.S. production trailing off only slightly over the next 20 years. However, the consumption curve skyrockets from just over seven billion barrels annually in 2002 to a projected 10 billion barrels by 2025. This means our dependence upon foreign oil will continue to grow, unless we take increasing measures to reduce our energy consumption.
In an effort to reduce this gap, we likely will see an increase in legislative activity designed to reward builders, remodeling contractors and consumers for the use of products which will improve the energy efficiency of our homes. 

How Windows Can Help 
Now, let’s tie this into windows. Windows incorporating thermally efficient frames and high-performance glass packs represent a significant opportunity for our nation to help reduce the energy gap. This means more thermally broken metal frames, vinyl and wood frames, low-E glass (or films), higher performance warm-edge spacers, argon, krypton, triples and even quad-glass designs incorporating krypton.

Glass is 85 percent of the surface area of a window, yet it represents only about 15 percent of its cost. By employing higher-performance insulating glass designs, we can decrease the overall energy consumption of both new and existing homes significantly by simply installing windows that cost only modestly more in relation to the lifetime benefits that can be realized in annual energy savings. These benefits likely will increase in the coming years, especially given the increasing costs of energy related to our “supply versus demand” dilemma and our dependence upon supply from politically unstable foreign countries. 

The good news is that the technology in the window industry is at our disposal. It has been around for years and has become increasingly accepted and embraced by marketing-savvy remodeling contractors and dealers who sell value-added technology successfully to a better informed consumer market. Many builders and glazing contractors are still primarily price driven, but this likely will change as builders perhaps will be stimulated by tax credits. Additionally, glazing contractors will react to specifications written by architects who have become more interested in improving energy conservation for their clients.

So, instead of getting depressed by the National Geographic article, I cheerfully put it down and picked 
up yet another window industry publication. 

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