Volume 33, Number 7, July 1998


USGOpenings Feature

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Consumer Preference*

*But Were Afraid to Ask

by Leslie Shaver

Window manufacturers may be surprised to find that price is not consumers’ most important consideration when buying windows. In fact, most consumers consider price to be the fourth most-important factor they consider when buying windows, following energy performance, durability and appearance.

Respondents were asked to assign a total of 100 points among a list of window attributes. They assigned a mean score of 24.7 points to energy performance, 17 points to durability, 15.6 points to appearance and 14.6 points to price (Figure 1).

Figure 1

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Consumers said that energy performance was the most important factor to consider when buying a window, giving it a mean score of 24 points. Durability and appearance followed as the second and third most-important factors, while price was the least important of the four attributes to consumers.


This and other questions about residential window purchasing were answered when the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) announced the results of its recent consumer survey.

Among the most important pieces of information the council gained was that a consumer-friendly label was necessary because almost 70 percent of consumers consider either themselves or their spouses to be the primary decision maker when it comes to buying windows. According to the NFRC, half of the respondents considered themselves to be the primary decision maker when buying windows, while 20 percent considered the builder/contractor to be the key decision maker and 18 percent said their spouse was the primary decision maker (Figure 2). These figures did differ slightly for those who bought a newly constructed home. Thirty-four percent of the respondents in this category ranked the builder as the primary decision-maker, while 34 percent ranked themselves as the primary decision maker.


Figure 2

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Fifty percent of respondents said that they made the key decisions on window purchases. Another 18 percent of the respondents said their spouse made the important decisions on windows, while 20 percent of the time the builders made the key decisions.

The survey also asked consumers where they go for information about windows. According to the NFRC, consumers most often consult their builder/contractor or lumberyard/home center for information about windows. However, 53 percent of respondents choose consumer organizations as their first or second most-trusted source of window information, followed by builders/contractors, utilities/energy companies and manufacturers (Figure 3). The survey also revealed that manufacturer product literature, window salespeople, friends and product literature are other resources consumers tap into when searching for window information.


Figure 3

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More than 50 percent of consumers have the most faith in consumer organizations when deciding what window to buy. Builders and utilities companies also have a fair amount of consumer faith, with both receiving more than 40 percent of their trust. Manufacturers lag behind in last place as just about a third of consumers trust them when making window decisions.

However, it seems that consumers desire still more useful information about windows before buying a new home or remodeling a home. Sixty-three percent of consumers who plan to buy a new home agreed that they could use more information, while 56 percent of those who plan to remodel their home said they could use more information before purchasing windows or sunroofs.

One aspect of window buying that customers said they need more information on is energy efficiency. Eighty-three percent of customers indicated that having a performance rating system would be important in any purchasing decision and 74 admitted that the ability to compare windows would be useful in the purchasing decision.

The survey shared that consumers clearly understand the benefits of energy-efficient windows. More than 90 percent of the respondents said that keeping drafts out, reducing heating/cooling energy costs and keeping cold out/heat in were among such benefits.

Consumers vary on their opinions of the best place to put energy information. Thirty-seven percent said that the label is the best place for energy information, while 22 percent prefer manufacturer literature and 18 percent prefer printed material at the point of purchase (Figure 4).

Figure 4

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Thirty-seven percent of respondents said that the best source for window energy information is the label, while 22 percent thought product literature was the best spot. Eighteen percent felt that point-of-purchase material was the best place for energy information, while the remaining 23 percent said the information should be acquired from other sources.


The consumer survey was designed to determine what kind of information consumers are looking for when they shop for windows, doors and skylights; understand the various factors that influence consumer buying decisions; provide insights into the relative value of energy performance when compared to other window attributes; and to determine how the NFRC label can best be used to communicate energy performance information to consumers.

According to Susan Douglas, NFRC’s administrative director, the survey was useful in determining what information consumers want. "Through the survey, we were able to learn what consumers are looking for when it comes to energy performance information about windows, doors and skylights, and the new label and seasonal energy performance ratings are designed to serve those needs," she said.


Leslie Shaver is an assistant editor of USGlass.


Copyright 1998 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.