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USGNN Original StoryIndustry Insights: Fenestration Representatives Share Views on the Proposed ENERGY STAR® Revisions

The Department of Energy's (DOE) ENERGY STAR stakeholder meeting took place last week in Washington D.C. (CLICK HERE for that story.) Hundreds of people attended to discuss the proposed criteria revisions. While some companies support the proposed changes, others, including some aluminum window manufacturers, do not. With ENERGY STAR revisions calling for lower U-factors, it might be a challenge for some aluminum windows to meet the increasing requirements.

Freddie Cole, national sales manager with General Aluminum Windows in Dallas, says he is not in favor of the proposed changes.

"It's punishing those states, counties and municipalities that have done the right thing and adopted an energy code requiring the use of low solar gain products," says Cole. "Why should those jurisdictions be punished with required stricter values when there are entire states that do not require low solar gain products at all in the South? Wouldn't the DOE be better served leveling the playing field, so to speak, by pressuring those states to adopt codes that require low solar gain products?"

He continues, "I understand the DOE's position that ENERGY STAR has to be better than the codes, but codes in many jurisdictions are already equal to ENERGY STAR and codes can be and are being changed at a much more rapid pace. Many municipalities and jurisdictions reference ENERGY STAR in their codes, which means there can be three different code guidelines (ENERGY STAR, International Residential Code [IRC] and International Energy Conservation Code [IECC]). Wouldn't it make sense to take a good (IRC), better (IECC), best (ENERGY STAR non-mandatory) approach?"

Tom Culp, who represents the Aluminum Extruders Council, also has some concerns about the proposed revisions.

"We're encouraged that DOE is updating ENERGY STAR, but of course, we're concerned about how it will affect aluminum windows in the south," says Culp. "Because ENERGY STAR must beat code, it is still uncertain what the final criteria and performance trade-offs will include until after the International Code Council final hearings in late September. We will be filing detailed comments after that time."

In addition, Cole says that there are also issues when it comes to the codes and the way they are viewed by window manufacturers, homeowners and builders.

"The biggest disconnect I and many others see is both the manufacturer and the homeowner view the code as the minimum standard; the builder, in most cases, views code as a maximum to which a home should be built. Builders could do better, but since the state(s) don't require it they don't choose to," says Cole. "If every state adopted the IRC and its energy code as a base standard the nation as a whole would be better off in regards to conserving energy."

Cole adds, " I would like to see the DOE make the statement that 'Energy Star U-value and solar heat gain coefficient requirements are not intended for and should not be used by jurisdictions as the basis for local energy code(s). ENERGY STAR is an above-code initiative.' This would help explain the intended use of ENERGY STAR and prevent the misuse of the target requirements."

And on a different note, Culp says they [AEC] are also encouraging the DOE to think more broadly about the environmental impacts of ENERGY STAR. He poses the question: "Beyond just proposed energy savings, do the proposed criteria promote materials that are more or less environmentally friendly and sustainable?

"To that end, we have presented a new concept for a recycled content credit, where a credit would be given toward meeting U-factor criteria based on the equivalent embodied energy savings from using recycled materials," he says. "Our initial analysis shows that in the south the embodied energy savings from the use of recycled aluminum can be as significant as the energy savings from proposed reductions in U-factor."

Culp has presented data on recycled content credit to the DOE and says the proposal and analysis will be made available for review and discussion through the DOE's ENERGY STAR website.

CLICK HERE to share your views on the proposed ENERGY STAR revisions.

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