Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission approved final orders settling charges that five companies that make and sell replacement windows made deceptive energy-efficiency and cost-savings claims. The final orders, issued in May, prohibit Gorell Enterprises, Long Fence & Home, Serious Energy, THV Holdings, and Winchester Industries from making unsupported and exaggerated claims regarding their windows’ efficiency and how much money consumers could save on their heating and cooling bills by having them installed.

The FTC cited those five cases in more recent August letters warning 15 companies that their websites had similar claims to those made by the above replacement firms. Though the FTC decided that the claims did not violate the law, the letter asks the companies to review their claims, asking the companies to make sure any energy-efficiency claims are backed by scientific evidence. Other areas for review include:

• The type of savings consumers can expect. Companies must be specific about the type of savings and note the difference between total home energy savings and heating and cooling savings. Heating and cooling expenses may account for less than half of a home energy bill, thus a 15% reduction in a home's heating and cooling costs does not mean the homeowner will save 15% on his or her entire energy bill. Companies claiming that consumers will achieve a specified percentage of energy savings should state clearly whether they are referring to heating and cooling savings or savings on a home energy bill.

•  "Up-to" claims. A recent FTC study shows that many consumers interpret claims that windows will save "up to" a specified amount of energy to mean that all or almost all users are likely to get the specified savings. To avoid deception, companies must clearly convey the results consumers are likely to get.

• Disclosure of any assumptions. If a company’s substantiation shows that consumers will get a specified amount or percentage of savings only under certain circumstances, those circumstances must be clearly disclosed and prominently displayed near the claim. Disclosures in small, difficult-to-read type are no antidote to a deceptive savings claim that’s prominently displayed in the advertisement.

The letter asks each company to identify the claims it intends to remove or revise and to notify FTC staff when the changes will be made.

Here is the list of the companies that received the FTC warning letters:

West Window Corp.
Acadia Windows & Doors
Cardinal Glass Industries
Nationwide Window & Siding 
Pace Window & Door 
PAL Manufacturing 
Ringer Windows
Sierra Pacific Windows
SureGuard Windows
SwissShade + Security
Thompson Creek Window Co.
Value Windows & Doors
Vytex Windows
Weather Shield

—Nina Patel, Senior Editor, REMODELING    

More REMODELING articles about windows and energy-efficiency claims:
FTC vs. The Window Industry 
Windows Slammed — Remodelers, beware of making deceptive advertising claims