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Contemplating the Fate of Energy Star

By Tara Taffera


Contemplating the Fate of Energy Star

Even if you don’t own an Energy Star labeled product it’s a safe bet that you have seen or heard of the label. Energy Star has been known in households across the U.S. since its inception in 1992. The voluntary program rates the energy efficiency of thousands of products, from air conditioners to dishwashers to windows and doors, and is currently run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If you’re proud to own an Energy Star product, or only purchase items with this label, you should know the popular designation could be in jeopardy.

The Facts

And if you aren’t familiar with Energy Star, here is a quick guide to the windows program. Replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR certified windows lowers household energy bills by an average of 12 percent, according to the EPA’s website. Lower energy consumption also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Other benefits to buying an Energy Star labeled window includes comfort, keeping the cold out in the winter, for example. And in the summer, an Energy Star window can reduce the heat gain coming in the home. Other benefits include protecting valuables from fading, and if you are really concerned about the environment, an Energy Star window can help reduce your carbon footprint—your CO2 emissions per year. If you want to calculate your emissions, try your hand at it here. Just to give you an idea, your home accounts for about one quarter of this footprint.

Dismantling Energy Star? …

So if you now really want an Energy Star window you should know that the current administration’s budget would defund the program in 2018. Though the EPA says it will explore options for the transfer of Energy Star and other climate protection partnership programs to “non-governmental entities.”

While the proposed cuts may not make it past Congress in 2017, the possible loss of Energy Star has generated much interest. More than 300 window and door companies are partners in the program, and Energy Star-rated windows represent about 80 percent of the U.S. market.

“While we may not agree with every aspect of the Energy Star program, we believe that it does a great job in supporting the American consumer,” said Phil Wengerd, vice president of market strategies for door manufacturer ProVia.

“Despite what may happen at the federal level, what we have seen at the state and municipal level and from the private sector is that the effort to support energy efficiency will continue,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. “There is a revolution in how we think about and use energy, and it will not be derailed. Robust efforts will continue at all levels.”

“By having a third-party organization that is verifying the accuracy of the reports and testing methods, it gives the consumer confidence that they can trust the numbers they are seeing,” said Brian K. Zimmerman, owner of Zen Windows Carolina, a window dealer in Charlotte, N.C.  “If you remember back to the days before Energy Star certified windows, you had many companies using center-of-glass U-value numbers to make their windows look superior to others, as opposed to overall window U-values.”

The other important function of Energy Star is to push the industry to advance its technology, said Tyson Schwartz, president of window manufacturing company Soft-Lite Windows and Doors.

“It has challenged us to become better and strive for more energy-efficient products,” he said.

Of course, reducing energy bills was a key reason the Energy Star program was founded. Because of that, organizations that support energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases are backing Energy Star’s survival.

“We strongly support the Energy Star program,” said Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “This is a voluntary government program that works—indeed, it’s the leading voluntary energy-efficiency program in the world. Bottom line: it helps consumers save money.”

According to Ungar, consumers who bought Energy Star products and participated in its programs saved $34 billion in 2015, and a total of $430 billion through 2015.

“Energy Star is a hugely successful program – the most successful public-private partnership we’ve ever had, with more than 16,000 companies and organizations participating,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). “To pull the rug out from under it is just beyond short-sighted. It is an incredible success story that should be celebrated, not cast aside.”

Or Transfer Control to the DOE …

All that being said very early efforts are in place that would keep the Energy Star program. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a discussion hearing in November 2017 on possible legislation that could lead to major changes to the Energy Star program. The bill’s biggest proposal would transfer the program’s leadership from the EPA to the Department of Energy (DOE).

This could all be very confusing to consumers. But until we know the fate of Energy Star, it’s a good idea to keep searching for the Energy Star label. If you are searching for window or door products, Glass.com can help you find a window dealer that offers Energy Star-rated products.

© 2017 Glass.com Inc. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without expressed written permission. Questions? Contact info@glass.com.

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