Volume 7, Issue 5, September-October 2003

The Rating Game


The National Fenestration Ratings Council Takes on the Window Film Industry
by Penny Beverage

Two years ago, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), which is based in Silver Spring, Md., considered adding window film to the list of products it rates (see March-April 2001 Window Film, page 6). However, the association did not complete the task at the time and it seemed that it might postpone the endeavor indefinitely.

However, the time finally has come, and the window film industry now must face the new standards imposed on it by the NFRC.

The NFRC recently announced that it has approved a new technical procedure for rating window film (along with screens) when it met in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 8-12, 2003, at the Camelback Inn Marriott Resort. NFRC will begin to develop the certification and labeling procedures at its upcoming task group meetings in Kansas City, Mo., to be held September 18-19. 

“NFRC is committed to improving our existing rating procedures and to expanding the universe of products that manufacturers can bring to us for fair, accurate and credible energy performance ratings,” said Tony Rygg, NFRC chair, as he made the announcement. “We appreciate the effort made by window film manufacturers to work with us to develop technical procedures that will eventually allow them to rate and certify their film products through NFRC.”

Who’s the Stranger?
Many may wonder, what is the NFRC, and what business does it have rating window film?
The NFRC is a non-profit, public/private organization created by the window, door and skylight industry. Its membership list currently includes manufacturers, suppliers, builders, architects and designers, specifiers, code officials, utility companies and government agencies.

However, most of the major window film manufacturers have little to no involvement with the council, though the International Window Film Association (IWFA), which is based in Martinsville, Va., is a member, and says it supports its own members’ interests at NFRC meetings. In addition, St. Louis-based Solutia Inc., which owns CPFilms Inc., is a member of the council.

Despite the small number of film manufacturers on the council, Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA and a member of the Association of Industrial Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators’ window film committee (AIMCAL WFC), said he and the AIMCAL WFC have been involved in the development process since the idea came about.

“About four years ago, it was suggested to me by NFRC and [Department of Energy] contacts that our industry needed to have a more proactive role in helping NFRC embrace technologies other than conventional glass/window combinations,” Smith said. “Based on that advice, both the WFC and IWFA endorsed participation by … me to represent our industry properly and to make sure the information NFRC received about films was accurate and current.”

Smith said Lisa Winckler of CPFilms, who is also on the AIMCAL WFC, has also represented the window film industry at a number of NFRC meetings.

What’s the NFRC’s Purpose?
The NFRC says it provides “consistent ratings on window, door and skylight products”—with film excluded from the chosen products until now. But NFRC executive director Jim Benney said film is a natural extension of the council’s current list of products.

“Since films, screens and other components are typical attachments to fenestration products, it only makes sense that NFRC come up with a fair and uniform methodology to rate their energy performance,” he said.

Currently, the council rates fenestration products based upon U-factor (how well a window keeps heat inside a building), solar heat gain (a window’s ability to block warmth caused by sunlight), visible light transmittance (how much light gets through a product) and air leakage (heat loss and gain by infiltration through cracks in the window assembly).

Benney said it has not yet been determined if film will be judged on the same criteria.

“Current NFRC program language requires that the fenestration product energy performance criteria include U-factor, solar heat gain coefficient and visible transmittance,” he said. “Whether or not this requirement is carried over for labeling films is yet to be determined.”

Once a product is rated, it is equipped with the NFRC’s rating label, which helps consumers determine how well the product they are purchasing will perform the functions of cooling a building in the summer, warming it in the winter and resisting wind and condensation. In addition, the council is working on rating and certification procedures for condensation resistance and long-term energy performance, as well as exploring the idea of adding energy-related ratings, such as ultraviolet light protection—right up the alley of window film—to its label.

Normally, the affixed NFRC labels adhered, list the manufacturer of the product, provide a source for additional information on the product and include ratings for one or more energy performance characteristics.

The labels can then be used as a marketing aid, while the standard can be utilized in building codes. 
“NFRC standards typically are referenced by local energy codes or by other energy efficiency programs,” Benney said. “Manufacturers have found that NFRC labels are a marketing aid, providing consumers with credible, comparable energy performance ratings.”

He noted, though, that labeling is obviously never mandated (at least not by NFRC itself) and how the rating could affect the future of window film use is entirely uncertain, though it should be beneficial in some way.

“How it will affect film manufacturers and dealers is uncertain,” he said. “It will, however, hopefully provide them with a uniform method of communicating how window films affect the energy performance ratings for windows.”

New Ground?
While it is new ground for the NFRC to rate externally applied window film, it is no stranger to film itself. The council already rates low-E and internal film on windows, along with tints applied to the glazing layer of a window.

However, despite the familiarity between these products, Benney said it is hard to predict how long the standard development could take.

“I would hate to put a timeline on this project,” he said. “The technical issues are basically resolved. We are just working on how to best (and fairly) communicate performance—what the label looks like, what the ratings look like, etc.” 

Penny Beverage is an editor for Window Film magazine.


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