Volume 8, Issue 10 - November 2007

Eye On Energy

Lapsed NFRC Label Blows Energy Starģ job
by Arlene Zavocki Stewart

A few months ago, I wrote a column forecasting that your business would soon be dependent on the green choices of your component suppliers. Little did I know this would also apply to me! See, I lost a job last month and Iím pretty irritated about it.

Most people in the fenestration industry know my work with the Efficient Windows Collaborative. Many are surprised to learn that I donít just do windows. Among many other things, I do Energy Star home certification as a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rater. 

An owner/builder came to me who wanted to certify an  Energy Star home. (Iíve had quite of few of these lately.) It seems with the slowdown of the market coupled with the rising profile of global warming, every builder and developer wants to do energy-efficient, green building. Weíre more than happy to oblige.

However, construction was already underway and it was time for the insulation inspection, a required pre-requisite. Therefore, we dropped everything to fly out to the site. 

The builder had done a pretty fair job. There were a few hiccups but all in all, it looked goodóuntil I looked at the windows. Then I grabbed my phone while my new client watched.

I immediately called a contact that Iíve known my entire time in window world. He represented a company that believed wholeheartedly in energy-efficient windows, but wasnít all that thrilled with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). After a couple of years of griping, the company decided to test to NFRC 100 and 200 and then self-certify since that was what the Florida Energy Code allowed and most of their market was in-state. I distinctly remember when this happened because it was a hard-won decision.

ďBlankity blank! What are you doing to me here? Iím doing an  Energy Star home inspection and Iíve got your windows here and the only label I see is a green dot that says Ďlow-E.í Whatís going on?Ē

ďWell, Arlene, they arenít my windows anymore. Iím no longer with X company. I had heard that the new guys let NFRC lapse. But if itís the vinyl window made in the last three months, I think ABC lineal supplier has an NFRC test report.Ē

I thanked my contact, took a deep breath and said to Mr. Builder, ďIím sorry, I canít give you credit for your windows.Ē 

The builder was dumfounded. He had done his research, knew what he wanted and decided upon a local manufacturer, because one tenant of green building is using local materials. 

Except the Energy Rating law says that I canít give him credit for an unlabeled product. My state certification is on the lineĖsomeone is randomly checking a sample of my evaluations. I canít stretch it since the window is no longer an energy code-approved alternative. I canít make a professional judgment call because I know how often the wrong window gets installed. (I make a pretty penny recalculating HERS ratings with new values and then figuring out what has to be done to compensate for the wrong window.)

I tell my client that he doesnít have to replace the windows, but his  Energy Star rating wonít be as high. Perhaps heíll have to buy something else. We finish our inspection, making an appointment for the next one. The next day I get an e-mail that wasnít altogether unexpected: The builder has decided to not pursue  Energy Star Home certification. My sweet, easy gig is dead. 

Some readers are going to shake their heads in empathetic frustration. Others are going to see this as justification about why they donít need to do NFRC certification in the first place. I see it as a reminder that we donít exist in a vacuum. Your pinch-a-penny strategy may be right in the short term, but it may hurt someoneís livelihood. Theyíll never forget. In the long run, thatís bad for your business. For my private practice, Iíll probably recommend against this window for future HERS ratings.

Lastly, using my authorís prerogative, Iíd like to thank AAMAís Larry Livermore for reminding me that stories from the field are the most interesting. 

Arlene Zavocki Stewart is the principal for AZS Consulting, Inc., a member of the Efficient Windows Collaborative. She can be reached at azstewart@azsconsultinginc.com. The views and opinions expressed in this article and in materials of the Collaborative do not necessarily reflect those of this magazine.


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