Volume 11, Issue 5 - June 2010


R5 Program Takes Off

by Penny Stacey

For the last several months, R5 has become a major buzzword in the window manufacturing industry. Everyone is talking about when they’ll need to achieve it, how they’ll achieve it and the importance of doing so in the near future.

This became even more apparent when, in May, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officially launched its much-anticipated “Highly-Insulating R-5 Windows and Low-E Storm Windows Volume Purchase Program.”

The program was designed to pair manufacturers of these windows with potential large-volume purchasers in an effort to help manufacturers overcome the initial costs of producing such products.

A Push for Savings
During the R5 program kickoff, a number of energy officials discussed the importance of the R5 window. But making sure the windows are put into use is only the first step, said Roland Risser, program manager for the Building Technologies Program, a part of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

“In order to achieve success, we need the technology and wider use in the market,” said Risser.
However, cost has to go down for R5 windows to be widely used, he added.

“[The window] must meet the needs of the customer and one of those needs is cost-effectiveness,” said Risser. “ … At higher volumes, the costs and prices are lower.”

Sixty-two manufacturers applied to be a part of the program, and 32 proposals were accepted initially. A website highlighting the program also has been created and is available at www.windowsvolumepurchase.org.

American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) president and chief executive officer Rich Walker pointed out that he heard the word “optimism” being used often as the program rolled out.

“We’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and really this couldn’t come at a better time,” he said. “I think the incentives are extremely well-placed.”

He also saluted the DOE’s efforts for focusing the volume purchase program on the remodeling market.

“The potential for growth is there both in residential and commercial,” he said.

Hitting the Target
DOE says many of the products available through the program meet its target price of less than $4 per square foot. The program targets volume purchasers of windows, such as government agencies, builders, energy retrofitters, renovators and weatherization providers.

Habitat for Humanity representative Matt de Ferranti spoke as a possible volume purchaser of windows, and he advised his organization is now making an attempt to utilize Energy Star® and energy-efficient products when possible.

“We have made a major commitment to building our homes at Energy Star standards,” said Ferranti, who serves as director of federal agency relations for Habitat for Humanity International. “We’ve found the additional costs to meet Energy Star standards are less than $3,000.”

But for those not already manufacturing R5 windows, there can be much to do.

The first step is figuring out what type of R5 windows you want to make.

Edgetech IG executive vice president Larry Johnson says that manufacturers can achieve an R5 window with a dual-pane insulating glass (IG) system, “as long as the Edgetech IG executive vice president Larry Johnson says that manufacturers can achieve an R5 window with a dual-pane insulating glass (IG) system, “as long as the framing and everything else is designed right.”

“But that would require you to use a hardcoat low-E on Surface 4, and there aren’t a lot of manufacturers willing to put a hardcoat on Surface 4 and sell it commercially,” he says.

That leaves manufacturers with the most common option—triple-pane IG units. That’s what GED Integrated Solutions executive vice president Tim McGlinchy

“We feel it’s very practical to use a triple IG unit as a cost-effective solution to reach R-5 thermal performance for a typical-sized residential window,” he says.

GED has been working closely with the DOE to make it possible for manufacturers to offer this option affordably.

“We’ve been given the initiative from the DOE to develop an R5 high-volume manufacturing solution for the window manufacturer that will result in the end customer paying a price of approximately $4 a square foot over today’s Energy Star-rated window,” he says. “This system uses triple IG products that are designed for optimized thermal performance and minimizing component costs.”

This can require some machinery changes, depending on what you currently have in place.

“Equipment changes will vary to the window manufacturer, depending on what window style is integrating the high-performance triple IG unit, and the overall thickness of the triple IG unit,” McGlinchy adds. “In general, new sash and frame profiles to retain a wider, higher efficiency, lower cost IGU, will require modifications and reprogramming to fabrication, welding and profile cleaning machinery.”

Kevin Zuege, director of technical services for Truseal Technologies, says most systems can create triples, but agrees that accommodations often have to be made.

“If someone says next year they want to have 30 percent of output be triples, that’s huge,” he says. “It could cut throughputs down significantly if not planned for and addressed. You really have to look at machines, equipment and capacity issues.”

You’re, of course, also using more glass.

“Both of these things [an increase in glass and changing throughputs], in theory, can surprise those who are unaware.”

And then there’s the fill issue.

Johnson says you can use argon to fill both, “or you can do an argon gas and a krypton fill.” He points out the latter option, though high-performing, is more difficult and costly than the double-argon option.

“You would get a higher performance, but it would be offset by the cost of the krypton,” says Johnson.

Zuege agrees. “Going forward, if you don’t argon-fill, you’re just leaving energy money on the table,” he says. “Argon will be the default—everyone will use it. Krypton will be the exotic add-on.”

Though many surmise changes could be needed with equipment, this isn’t always the case. Dave Koester, brand manager for Weather Shield, says his company invested in new equipment several years ago to utilize fiberglass technology—and, though not part of the Phase One DOE program, is ready for the next phase.

“We invested money in fiberglass technology, [though] not specifically to get to R5,” he says, pointing out that now, due to those investments, the company can achieve an R5 rating.

Likewise, Soft-Lite vice president of sales and marketing Greg Irving says the company prides itself on offering a variety of glazing using automated equipment, and has been making R5 windows long before the program came around.

“We actually didn’t have to make any changes at all,” he says. “We already have [R5 ratings] in our products on a day-to-day basis, and our dealers have been selling them for years.”

Program Underway
Many suggest those currently not on board the R5 train may want to jump on soon.

“I think the energy codes are going to continue to get stricter, and if anybody’s not looking toward even what the current Energy Star criteria is, they’re going to be left behind,” says Johnson. “It’s just going to get stronger and stronger.”

Koester adds, “This is the natural progression and companies know they better get on board or be left behind.”

Penny Stacey
is the assistant editor of DWM magazine.


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