Codes & Standards
Fit & Finish: Energy Star needs a broader scope to work as a marketing tool
The limited scope of the Energy Star program damages its usefulness.
June 27, 2017 By Chris Meiorin
Let’s say you went out last week and bought a new family vehicle. You did your homework. You poured over the NRCan (Natural Resources Canada) website. You studied the EnerGuide fuel and consumptions ratings. You made sure the vehicle you were about to purchase had the new, redesigned EnerGuide label, detailing everything from fuel consumption to annual fuel costs.
Armed with this information, you strolled to your local dealer and made clear you had done your homework (via Google) and handed over the model you wished to purchase and the price you wished to pay (again, Google). You were pleased with the work you had put into this process and equally pleased you were doing your part to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Since the purchase, however, a few issues have presented themselves. You have a family of six, including the dog, and the new car only seats four. There is no storage space for your sports gear and tools. You love to listen to music and podcasts, but there’s no radio or media player. In short, it may not be the best vehicle for your needs, but gosh-darn-it, it sure does go far on a tank of super-high-octane low-sulfur gas. Interestingly enough, there was a message from a vehicle manufacturer in the EnerGuide opening page. It suggested that there were many factors to consider when buying a new vehicle. Everything from utility, performance and lifestyle needs. Driving habits should also be taken into consideration. How you operate the vehicle and access to qualified service should also be considered. You did in fact notice this, but just assumed it was the manufacturer’s attempt to sell you a car you didn’t really want or need.
This, it seems to me, is the experience most consumers will have when trying to use Energy Star as a guide to buying energy-efficient windows.
I am not a fan of Energy Star and its narrow and flawed focus pertaining to fenestration products. Nor am I alone in this thinking, as a full 44 per cent of those polled by the National Glass Association (38 per cent favoured, 18 per cent neutral) appear to feel the same about Energy Star and its current value to the consumer. I’ve made no secret about how I feel about this, and have voiced my opinion on this topic at various Energy Star stakeholders meetings with nothing more than a literal shoulder shrug in return. This has been an ongoing industry message directed toward NRCan, and although a recent presentation by Debbie Scharf (NRCan) at the 2017 Fenestration Canada AGM might suggest they are at least hearing this message, it is also very possible that the Energy Star program may be on its way out. This was first discussed by Jeff Baker, technical consultant for FenCan, as far back as the WinDoor 2017 seminars. Mr. Baker, as a side note to his presentation, suggested that with the election of Donald Trump, proposed funding cuts of almost one third to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would leave the Energy Star program in jeopardy. With Canada’s Energy Star program being aligned with that of the EPA in almost every aspect, it would leave in question the viability of the program here in Canada, and good riddance.
The major flaw of the Energy Star program relating to windows and doors is the fact that value is based entirely on winter heating degree days. No value or concern is given to such issues as passive solar heat gain its effect on associated energy consumption relating to cooling. Nor has any consideration been given to the comfort of the occupants buying into the program, or the resulting aesthetics of a window that is forced to meet the ever-increasing demands of compliance to the program. This in itself is distressing as these new and proposed criteria would potentially reduce the available use of glazing as an architectural design feature, in its place allowing for not much more than a cookie-cutter-pick-list of conservatively sized windows. The renderings for the “new” Energy Star home have a remarkable resemblance to the socialist housing plans of communist Russia. But then again, this is Canada.
Chris Meiorin is the owner of Euro Vinyl Windows and Doors in Woodbridge, Ont.
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