With wood and vinyl window replacement ranking in the top 10 most valuable remodeling projects, according to the 2010–2011 Cost vs. Value Report, remodelers will be interested in a new volume purchase incentive from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Several dozen window manufacturers are participating in the program in which contractors can purchase as few as 15 high-efficiency windows at reduced prices.

R-5 windows are the focus of the program, offering a U-factor of 0.22 for operable units and also meeting a DOE requirement for air infiltration. Both requirements exceed Energy Star.

“Through this initiative, the DOE aims to create awareness and acceptance of high-insulating R-5 windows, pair large-volume buyers with manufacturers of such windows, and get one step closer to zero-energy building,” says Chris Pickering, vice president of marketing for Ply Gem. Until now, he says, R-5 windows have been cost-prohibitive for consumers and manufacturers, slowing the products’ commercialization.

Market refocusing

While glazing, coatings, gas fill, and other features make R-5 windows among the most expensive on the market, Jeld-Wen market development manager Rob Worthington says the Windows Volume Purchase Program is about more than just getting a good price on a high-end product.

“This is all about market transformation,” he says. “There are as many as a billion single-paned windows in the country. With education about high-efficiency windows, we can show homeowners that they can go from a single-pane to a dual-pane window and increase their energy efficiency, or for a little extra money they can go from a single-pane to an R-5. A year ago, that wasn’t an option. They may not always invest in that extra step, but the fact that they’re upgrading at all is huge.”

Top Tier

Upcoming changes to Energy Star standards are also driving interest in high-efficiency windows. “Manufacturers are looking at the concept of window performance as the next phase of Energy Star for windows and patio doors,” says Mark Gallant, senior vice president of marketing for Atrium Cos. “The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has announced that March 2013 will begin Energy Star Phase II for windows. Energy Star has also asked manufacturers for input about a ‘top tier’ program.”

Energy Star generally allows no more than 25% of products in a category to meet its requirements. The proposed “top tier” would apply to just the top 5% of windows, Gallant says, noting that the top-tier program could be a precursor to 2013 Energy Star requirements.

As manufacturers focus on developing products to meet higher standards for the future, educating dealers and customers on high-efficiency remains a priority. “Now is the right time for all manufacturers to focus on the benefits of high-efficiency materials because it’s a down market,” Worthington says. “When business is up, people are too busy to listen to you. Now that things are slow, customers are taking time to learn again.”

—Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.

Four Notes on R-5

Premium price: Manufacturers suggest that when buying R-5 windows in volume, the price differential over typical R-3 Energy Star–rated windows drops from $8 per square foot to less than $4. This improves the energy savings payback over the life of the window, particularly for consumers in cold or mixed climates.

Average heat loss: Windows meeting current Energy Star requirements only achieve a U-factor of 0.3 (approximately R-3). By increasing the R-value from 3 to 5 and reducing the U-factor to 0.22, average heat loss through the window is reduced by 30% to 40%, according to the DOE.

Naming: Some manufacturers are critical of the “R-5” performance label. R-value and U-factor are reciprocal, so an R-5 window would have to have a U-factor of 0.2. Though accurate for storm windows in the program, operable windows only feature U-factors as low as 0.22 — slightly less than R-5.

Ordering info: Contractors can’t place orders through the Windows Volume Purchase website, which is only a clearinghouse for information. Base prices on the site are listed blind — specific prices are not identified by brand. Upgrades such as grids, tempered glass, etc., will increase the price.

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