Volume 34, Number 7, July 1999

USGOpenings Feature

Building Knowledge

Educating Home Builders 
on the Benefits of Energy-Efficient Products

by Alecia Ward

Recent technological ad-vancements mean that highly energy-efficient window products are available in the marketplace at a fraction of their previous cost. From framing materials to low-E coatings customized for different climates, home builders now have an array of choices in energy-efficient window technologies.

Efficient windows can increase comfort and the amount of daylight and view in a home’s interior, while decreasing condensation and fading of interior surfaces and materials. In addition to these non-energy-related benefits, efficient windows can save up to 30 percent of the heating and cooling portion of a homeowner’s utility bill. In other words, builders, glazing contractors and remodelers can increase the value and appeal of their projects by using energy-efficient products.

Despite universal benefits to builders, material suppliers and home buyers, the booming housing market—which has lately seemed hotter than technology stocks on Wall Street—has left builders playing catch-up with a growing demand. Does anyone have the time to hear the new message about energy efficiency? New home sales rose 2 percent in March 1999 leaving home builders little time to focus on improving construction practices—let alone worry about energy efficiency.

What’s a Glazing Contractor to Do?

Help the builder realize there are many ways to improve the construction and sale of homes, reduce building costs and add to his reputation. Compelling evidence shows "window shopping" for efficient windows can be a simple, cost-effective way to improve value without compromising profit margins.

Resources for Builders

Although some federal programs have earned a bad name for saying, "We’re from Washington and we’re here to help," several government or government/industry sponsored programs really do provide valuable services to the building industry by promoting flexible and voluntary participation. These three key programs provide consistent, reliable information for industry decision-makers:

National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC)

• Sets the standards for total product performance;
• Establishes testing procedures and certifies fenestration products; and
• Provides labels for certified products.


• Provides marketing/branding support to window manufacturers;
• Provides point-of-purchase materials to retailers and labels to manufacturers;
• Designs information that is simple for consumers to understand; and
• Provides some limited sales force training.

Efficient Windows Collaborative (EWC)

• Provides unbiased, non-product-specific information about efficient windows and skylights;
• Trains manufacturers and sales forces how to accurately sell efficient fenestration products.
• Trains builders, remodelers, home energy raters, code officials and others about selecting efficient fenestration products;
• Provides technical support through Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and
• Provides fact sheets and other information concerning efficient windows via the Internet.

In addition to the above programs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a market-based program called ENERGY STAR Homes. ENERGY STAR Homes works with builders to construct energy-efficient homes that use less energy, thus reducing pollution and utility bill costs to homeowners. The program provides builders with technical and marketing support, as well as develops links with mortgage lenders to offer special financing for purchasers of ENERGY STAR Homes.

Home Buyers Care About Energy Efficiency

A critical mass of educated consumers demanding energy-efficient products does not currently exist in the new construction residential market, primarily because consumers assume the homes they purchase are already energy efficient.

Although building practices have improved significantly in the past decade, many builders focus only on cost and aesthetics when specifying and installing windows, doors, and skylights, but don’t think about the added value of energy efficiency. Windows, doors and skylights are a very small portion of a builder’s worries, but they can represent a large portion of a homeowner’s utility bill.

What builders want to avoid, more than anything, is the cost of call-backs and customer dissatisfaction. Show them how energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights help them avoid problems with customers. Homeowners with energy-efficient windows are more likely to be comfortable, less likely to experience drafts in the winter and hot rooms in the summer, less likely to experience condensation and more likely to save money on their utility bills.

For more information about which energy-efficient windows are right for your climate please see the EWC’s regionally specific fact sheets or go to www.efficientwindows.org

Alecia Ward is the program manager for the Efficient Windows Collaborative, which is managed by the Alliance to Save Energy, based in Washington, D.C.

Encourage Builders to "Build America"

Resources exist to help builders incorporate energy-efficient products, such as high-performance windows, which add to the value and appeal of new homes. National production builders Pulte, Ryan Homes, and Del Webb are participating in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Building America program, which combines the knowledge and resources of industry leaders with DOE’s technical capabilities and laboratories. Four teams of building science professionals, manufacturers and suppliers, architects and engineers, provide technical support while community planners, mortgage lenders and others help builders bring efficient products to the marketplace.

Building America projects around the country have consistently demonstrated that the energy consumption of new houses can be reduced by as much as 50 percent with little or no impact on the cost of construction. This is possible because cost savings in one component part can then be reinvested to improve energy performance and product quality. New techniques for improving the building envelope, such as upgrading to high-performance energy-efficient windows, often enable builders to install smaller, less expensive heating and cooling systems than would be needed with traditional windows. These equipment cost savings in HVAC offset the added envelope improvement costs.

At the Pulte/Building America Las Vegas demonstration project, spectrally-selective low-E glazings were a key technology used to reduce measured cooling energy by 20 percent and heating energy by 50 percent in new homes. The home’s efficient windows improved resistance to heat loss and prevented solar gains thus reducing cooling costs and permitting Pulte to downsize HVAC equipment. The HVAC system in the Las Vegas demonstration home had originally been sized at 5 tons. After improvements in the construction, including energy-efficient windows, the HVAC was sized at 3 tons with resulting cost savings of $750 to the builder. Energy-efficient windows accounted for anywhere from 1/2-1 ton of that savings.

Systems Engineered Design Advantages to Builder:

• Reduces construction costs;
• Improves productivity;
• Improves building performance;
• Reduces call-back and warranty problems;
• Allows energy-efficient mortgage financing due to lower utility bills; and
• Gives builders a competitive advantage.

Efficient windows can increase comfort and increase the amount of daylight and view while decreasing condensation and fading of fabrics and materials inside a home.


In the winter, efficient "warm glass" increases comfort because less heat is radiated from people to the window and because drafts caused by cold surfaces are minimized. In the summer, low solar heat gain glass (low SHGC values) significantly reduces the amount of sunlight passing through glass and warming people and objects.

Daylight and View:

While blocking out the heat in summer and trapping heat inside in winter, energy-efficient windows still let in much of the daylight homeowners want to naturally light homes.

Decreased Fading:

Because energy-efficient windows use low-E coatings, they also block out most of the ultraviolet rays that can cause fading and damage to furnishings.

Decreased Condensation:

Efficient windows insulate better than traditional ones. The glass surface facing the interior stays warmer in winter, which means the amount of relative humidity in the house can be higher (than with traditional windows) or it can be colder outside before condensation begins to occurs. The figure to the right illustrates how efficient windows reduce condensation.


© Copyright 1999 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.