When Penguin Windows, the $50 Million, Mukilteo, Wash.-based window company, crashed and burned in 2010 over allegations that it misrepresented its products and, among other things, made false claims about energy savings, it cast a pall over the industry. Lots of companies were making those claims and still do so today. “Starting about six years ago, we saw an upsurge in attacks on unsupported benefits of windows in particular,” says D.S. Berenson, managing partner of the industry law firm Berenson LLP. “It started with the A.G. in Washington and spread to Ohio, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Then the Federal Trade Commission picked it up. Then we saw disgruntled customers hiring an attorney.” But now, NAPAC, the National Association of Professionally Accredited Contractors, has a new database that can supply scientific evidence for such energy claims.
Window companies and even some manufacturers have been making claims about yearly energy savings — stating a percentage or a dollar figure — that using their product will save consumers. But, Berenson says, “these claims weren’t based on any scientific evidence at all.” When Berenson’s construction industry clients were faced with these allegations, they found themselves “trying to get out from behind the eight ball after the fact,” he says. The legal defense was to retroactively try to prove that the claims were true. “We’d spend $70,000, $80,000, $150,000 to create an engineering-based survey in a particular region to show that our client’s windows did in fact save 'X' amount on utility bills," Berenson says. "It’s an expensive and grueling process.”
About two years ago NAPAC began a national study to find valid third-party claims for specific geographic regions in the U.S. based on the R-value or U-factor of a window. The study, done in conjunction with a major university, looked at housing specifications, weather, utility bills, the differential between various types of single- and double-pane windows and modern windows of Energy Star and above. The information was subject to regression analysis to come up with the data to create the WISE — Window Indagate Savings on Energy — project, which creates scientifically defensible savings estimates on the average home (defined as 2,150 square feet, using an average of one- and two-story homes, with 15% window to floor area).
Those using WISE, which is available for purchase by NAPAC members only, can now advertise for example, that their replacement windows will save $X on a homeowner’s utility bills and have “third-party independent scientific evidence to back it up," Berenson says. "That’s huge." So if there is an investigation and the evidence is being questioned, “NAPAC will back you up,” he says. —Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.
For more articles on this topic in REMODELING:
Window & Door Sales Seen Heading Up: Window, door, and skylight manufacturers and dealers count on an expanding new-home construction market, and growing renovation activity, to lift sales.
FTC Warns Window Companies About Energy-Efficiency Claims: 15 window companies asked to review their window energy-efficiency claims.
Windows Slammed: Crackdown on energy-efficiency claims in window advertising.