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EPA Seeking Feedback on Labeling Guidance for ENERGY STAR Windows, Doors, and Skylights for Version 6.0

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Monday, July 28, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a draft version of Labeling Guidance for ENERGY STAR® Windows, Doors, and Skylights for Version 6.0 and asking stakeholders to provide feedback.

According the EPA’s press release, the document describes the proper use of the ENERGY STAR label on products, product displays, and product packaging.

All uses of the ENERGY STAR label must comply with the final version of this guidance beginning January 1, 2015.


The deadline for ENERGY STAR partners to provide feedback is Friday, August 8, 2014.

EPA specifically requests feedback on the content, clarity, and consistency of the guidance.


EPA is fielding questions at windows@energystar.gov.

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A Path Forward for Energy Code Compliance

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Friday, July 25, 2014

This content was provided to NFRC courtesy of guest blogger, Ryan Meres, Senior Code Compliance Specialist, with the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT). The original article, including graphics, is available here.


As I approach my third anniversary as IMT’s code specialist and my eighth year working with building energy codes, I find it a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned about improving energy code compliance in the U.S., while also contemplating some opportunities for increasing compliance going forward.

Code compliance—or, more specifically, the lack thereof—has been a constant challenge, as local legislative bodies, building departments, and inspectors are often insufficiently educated on the hows and whys of enforcing the energy code, among other barriers. Energy codes also suffer from a lack of public appeal: A bright solar panel is a lot sexier than new insulation.

However, over the past five years energy code compliance has gained more attention. Some of this attention can be attributed to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which placed a large focus (and significant short-term funding) on energy code compliance by requiring states to reach 90 percent compliance with their energy code by 2017 in order to receive energy funding.

This investment helped get the ball rolling on recognizing energy code compliance as an area that could yield significant energy savings in America’s buildings.

The majority of ARRA compliance funding went to state-wide compliance assessments—and although they were designed to provide a statistically valid compliance rate for a state, there was little guidance on how to improve compliance rates or funding to assist with improvement initiatives. One problem was compliance assessment results were aggregated to the state level, yet the verification of compliance was and still is the responsibility of local jurisdictions. In most cases states have little influence on the compliance verification process and don’t have the ability to implement improvement initiatives.

Recognizing these resource constraints and this gap in capabilities is key

The solution to improving energy code compliance is to work with local building departments to evaluate their quantitative compliance rate and to conduct a qualitative assessment to understand the reasons behind that compliance rate. In city compliance assessments that IMT commissioned the Britt/Makela Group to conduct, it was discovered that commercial fenestration was commonly non-compliant, but the reasons for this differed from city to city. 

A good qualitative evaluation will uncover whether non-compliance can be attributed to an architect not specifying the proper window glazing, an inspector not verifying compliance, or to actions of the building department, the building industry, and even elected officials or city policy.

Many local jurisdictions can feel threatened by this type of evaluation because they view it as a criticism or audit of their work. However, by working with them and respecting the important and difficult work that building officials, plans examiners, permit technicians, and inspectors do on a daily basis to verify hundreds of code provisions, this impression can be overcome. And in fact, an energy code assessment will not only help improve energy code compliance, but also may help raise compliance with other health and safety codes.

There are other ways to help increase compliance rates. In resources developed by IMT over the past three years, we’ve addressed many best practices, such as the use of third parties, streamlining compliance practices, design professional accountability, and compliance for renovation projects. IMT also launched the Standard Bearers Award, in 2012, as a way to recognize individual code officials, local jurisdictions, and states doing an excellent job at improving energy code compliance.

In order to demonstrate the energy savings potential from improved compliance, IMT has mapped out the potential savings for each state, and reported on the non-energy benefits of the energy code such as positive impacts on resilience, durability, and air quality.

We’re continuing to develop new tools as well. As part of the City Energy Project (CEP), a joint project of IMT and the Natural Resources Defense Council, IMT is now working on ways to scale energy code compliance improvement in cities. Among the resources under development is a new methodology that outlines how a quantitative and qualitative compliance assessment should be done in medium to large cities. A second resource will outline the steps cities should take to improve code compliance.

A methodology for cities to use in conducting energy code compliance assessments is crucial for ensuring consistency in the assessment approach and subsequent results. It’s important to focus compliance assessments and improvement initiatives at the city level because these offices have direct control over enforcement.

There is one more issue that must be addressed on the path ahead: Although there has been an increased focus on compliance over the past five years, the need for consistent funding is paramount to seeing wide-reaching compliance improvement and realizing the maximum energy savings that energy codes promise. The key to tapping long term, stable funding is to get utilities and public utility commissions to realize that significant energy savings are possible with improved energy code compliance.

The last eight years have brought about a number of opportunities to foster increased compliance rates. The strategies above should help to continue this drive in the years to come.

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Low-E Glass Lowers Utility Bills

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Wednesday, July 09, 2014

When the summer sun penetrates your windows, temperatures rise and so do utility bills. Choosing windows with low-E glass, however, reduces the cost of staying cool.

In hot climates, homeowners and building occupants need to know all their options for keeping cool air inside and hot air outside.

One option is installing windows with low-E (low-emissivity) glass. Emissivity describes how a window radiates the heat it absorbs and is one of the main ways heat is transferred.

Low-E glass can filter 40 to 70 percent of the heat that is normally transmitted through standard window glass. It works by reflecting heat back to its source.

Glazed with an ultra-thin metallic coating – thinner than a human hair – low-E glass filters out the infrared (heat) portion of the light spectrum while allowing the full amount of visible light to pass through. This spectrally-selective filtering reduces solar heat gain, decreasing the need for air conditioning and also reduces dependence on artificial lighting. Additionally, low-E glass filters out harmful ultraviolet rays, preventing fading to your carpet, furniture, and other valuables.

Think of low-E glass as you would a thermos. When cold liquid is stored inside, its silver lining repels heat from the outside. This constant reflection maintains the internal temperature. Additionally, the air space between the silver lining and the exterior of the thermos contributes to the insulating value of the lining – similar to an insulating glass unit.

Heat transfer in multi-layer glazing occurs through thermal radiation from a warm pane of glass to a cooler pane. When low-E glass faces the gap between the glass layers, it blocks a large portion of this radiant heat transfer, lowering total heat flow through the window.

When heat reduction is a priority, so the low-E coating should be on the number two surface. This is the inside-facing surface of the outside pane.

While windows with low-E glass generally cost 10 to 15 percent more than windows with standard glass, they can increase energy efficiency by 30 to 50 percent.  

Low-E coatings are usually applied during manufacturing, but there are also low-E window films available for do-it-yourselfers. These films are more economical alternative than replacing windows and will last for 10 to 15 years.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that 30 percent of the energy wasted in commercial buildings and 40 percent of the energy required for cooling homes can be attributed to inefficient windows.

Although opting for windows with low-E glass represents a greater initial investment, its many benefits pay you back over time. What’s more, improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings helps boost the economy, improves health, and protects the environment.

Contact Tom Herron at 240-821-9505 to learn more about the important role windows, doors, and skylights play in making homes and buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.

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Integrating Windows Maximizes Synergy

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Wednesday, June 11, 2014

High-performance windows are an essential component in sustainable residential buildings. Maximizing their contribution, however, requires integrating them into the whole-building concept.

While this may appear obvious, it is often challenging to consider windows holistically despite their invaluable contribution to sustainability through enhanced synergy. Design teams that work independently rather than collaboratively, for instance, may inadvertently create problems instead of solving them. A ventilation system that uses windows improperly, for instance, can adversely influence indoor air quality by allowing outside contaminants inside. 

Overcoming this challenge requires keeping in mind that every residential building depends on a series of complex, interrelated systems to operate efficiently. Achieving sustainability, of course, requires integrating these systems and their subsystems.

By including windows in this process, design teams can minimize operating costs while creating a healthy indoor environment that keeps occupants satisfied. 

Contact Tom Herron at 240-821-9505 to learn more about the important role windows play in making homes and buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.


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Do You Have an Immediate Need To Show Commercial Fenestration Code Compliance?

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Friday, June 06, 2014
If you're currently involved with a commercial project and need to show that the windows meet energy performance codes, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) can help.

Here's an overview of our commercial ratings program.

Contact Ray McGowan at 240-821-9510 to learn more.

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New Whiteboard Highlights Ease of NFRC's Commercial Ratings Program

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) new whiteboard helps design professionals see how easy it is to meet fenestration energy code compliance on commercial projects.

Contact NFRC’s Senior Program Manager, Ray McGowan, at 240-821-9510 to use our commercial ratings program for your project.


View the video


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Nelson Peña Presented with 2014 NFRC Service

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Thursday, May 08, 2014

On April 23, NFRC’s CEO, Jim Benney, recognized Nelson Peña’s contribution to the board of directors by presenting him with 2014 Service Award.  

Nelson recently concluded six years on the board and was the technical lead on windows for the Energy Commission for the 2005, 2008, and 2013 Energy Efficiency Standards.  

Nelson has been the representative for the Energy Commission at the NFRC Membership meetings for the last 13 years and has been a key component in serving the interests of Californians and the California window industry.

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Above and Beyond: Windows Exceeding Energy Performance Codes Bring Host of Benefits

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Monday, April 28, 2014

According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the amount of energy lost through windows represents four to five percent of total U.S. energy consumption at an annual cost of $50 billion. Yet fewer than 30 percent of commercial buildings use high-performance windows, doors, and skylights – otherwise known as fenestration.

One way building owners can save energy, facilitate sustainability, and maximize their return on investment is by requiring these products to exceed energy performance codes.  

Many people assume using more windows increases the potential for energy loss. In reality, however, the right windows actually enhance overall building performance. The judicious use of fenestration reduces energy consumption by decreasing HVAC and lighting loads while allowing natural ventilation. Furthermore, buildings with above-energy-code fenestration command higher resale value, minimize environmental impact, and improve an organization’s reputation.

High-performance fenestration also offers many other benefits. For example, multiple studies reveal that adequate daylighting improves productivity in businesses, increases sales in retail stores, facilitates learning in schools, and promotes faster healing in hospitals.

Another important -- although somewhat lesser known -- advantage of high-performance fenestration is that it helps reduce peak loads on the energy grid, decreasing stress and increasing reliability.

Exceeding Code: Good for Owners, Good for Tenants

While fenestration energy-performance codes are evolving to improve minimum standards, surpassing these standards protects owners and tenants from the unforeseen financial consequences arising from short-sighted design or construction decisions. Demanding windows, doors, and skylights that exceed energy performance codes also encourages the fenestration industry to develop products that are more efficient and to create innovative design strategies.

Moreover, building owners who demand above-energy-code fenestration demonstrate their commitment to green construction and sustainability. By sharing these energy performance ratings, owners are enabling their clients to make educated, informed decisions when buying, renting, or leasing a building. By helping their tenants minimize utility bills, owners are also helping themselves by staving off the potentially high cost of future retrofits.

Financial Advantages to Building Owners

Buildings consume about 70 percent of the electricity in the U.S. This makes it more important than ever for owners to insist on above-code energy performance from their windows, doors, and skylights. While sometimes overlooked, analyzing the value of high-performance fenestration during the integrated design process is a practical strategy that can maximize return on investment and help make our buildings greener, cleaner, and more sustainable.

Perhaps most compelling of all, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that building energy codes will produce a financial benefit to owners of nearly $2 billion annually by 2015, increasing to over $15 billion annually by 2030.

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Occupant Behavior Affects Window Performance, Overall Efficiency

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Wednesday, April 09, 2014

High-performance windows, doors, and skylights can make our homes and buildings more comfortable and energy efficient, but maximizing their contribution depends on occupant behavior.

It’s easy to overlook the role people play in contributing to green building and sustainability. When we think about high-performance structures, we often focus on design, construction, and technology. With Americans spending 90 percent of their time indoors, however, the way people interact with these structures is also important for improving overall building performance.

In hot sunny climates, for instance, actions that reduce energy consumption yet sacrifice comfort are unlikely to achieve their intended results. This is because occupants generally act to override their discomfort. For example, they may draw the curtains across high-performance windows on a sunny day and turn on the lights to avoid glare.

Considering the building’s orientation during the integrated design process, however, can lead to better solutions. Planting deciduous trees or shrubs near windows and installing canopies or awnings are two good ways to harvest (free) daylight while controlling solar heat gain and glare.

Similarly, installing windows with Low-e coating can improve occupant comfort and energy efficiency. These are ideal for heat-dominated climates because they preserve visible transmittance. They also reduce solar heat gain and glare. If you need a solution for an existing home or building, window films are a good option.

Another example of building occupants acting to override their discomfort occurs during the winter. People sometimes raise the thermostat and open multiple windows so they can enjoy fresh air without getting cold.

A more effective solution is installing operable windows, which allow natural ventilation and prevent Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from accumulating. Operable windows also provide an important psychological benefit – the feeling of control over one’s environment.

The bulk of our energy consumption comes from seeking the balance among comfort, energy efficiency, and good indoor air quality. E
ncouraging more interaction between occupants and the built environment helps them better understand how their actions affect their surroundings and their utility bills.

In the future, the highest-performing buildings may not be those that initially exceed code. Instead, they may be the ones that provide an engaging environment where occupants share responsibility for managing energy consumption.

In fact, making buildings perform better depends on educated and committed occupants who proactively interact directly with the buildings they inhabit. While ever-expanding technology will continue providing new ideas, tools, and equipment for making improvements, our actions are what ultimately get the job done.

As Kathryn Janda of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University said in her
paper of the same title, “Buildings don’t use energy – people do.”

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NFRC announces call for films to students across U.S. and Canada

Posted By Tom Herron, NFRC, Tuesday, April 01, 2014
The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) issued a call for submissions today for the NFRC 25th Anniversary Student Film Contest. The contest is part of a yearlong celebration of NFRC’s quarter-century of service to architects, builders and consumers.

 

College students in the U.S. and Canada are invited to answer the question, “Why do windows matter?” in a video production lasting no more than five minutes. NFRC will award the top three filmmakers with cash scholarships.

 

“There’s any number of ways participants can run with this,” said NFRC CEO Jim Benney. “In a way, we’re looking to these students for inspiration through their creativity and imagination. And it’s a great way for NFRC to celebrate its 25th anniversary.”

 

Entries are due by August 1, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. A panel of NFRC members will view and judge the submissions. The top three entries will be screened at NFRC’s Fall Membership Meeting on Sept. 22 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and posted to NFRC’s website, www.nfrg.org.

 

“This is an exciting new undertaking for us and will be a great way to engage students in the work we do,” said Jessica Finn, NFRC membership coordinator. “We hope participating students will see their films as an important element in promoting energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.”

 

Interested students should visit https://nfrccommunity.site-ym.com/?Filmcontest for contest information, rules, and registration.

Contact NFRC's Membership Coordinator, Jessica Finn, at 240-821-9512 with any questions.

 

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