ENERGY STAR® windows, as the name suggests, are windows that have been rated and qualified as energy-efficient by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), which is also proof that they have been manufactured by an ENERGY STAR® partner. To obtain an ENERGY STAR® certification, a door or window must meet requirements set by a bureau of the government of the United States for particular weather or climatic conditions. The requirements differ by location, meaning a window installed in British Columbia is different in structure and requirements from one installed in Ontario.
What is Energy Star®?
The ENERGY STAR® program started back in 1992 as a voluntary labelling agency to help consumers identify energy-efficient products. Countries such as Canada, Australia and Japan later adopted the program, and slowly it has grown to become the ultimate emblem of ‘green’ products.
Thus far, it has partnered with more than 18,000 organizations across the world and is still adding more private and public institutions to its list. Just for the record, it doesn’t cover only window and door manufacturers; it also covers furniture, lighting, electronics, roofing material, paint, food and clothing manufacturers.
In 2012 alone, it saved organizations, consumers and businesses across the globe an estimated $24 billion. More than 2,000 buildings in the United States had earned certification by 2005, and its public awareness had grown to a staggering 80 percent by the end of 2011.
Why are Energy Star® Windows Preferred in Canada?
While the core purpose of ENERGY STAR® in Canada has been to help the country save significant amounts of energy by encouraging manufacturers to produce green products through green methods, consumers have been the biggest beneficiaries of the whole program. The logo has gradually moved from being the quintessence of green production to a crest of quality. One of the bureau’s guidelines is that products must sport features that are being demanded by consumers apropos energy efficiency, meaning that a window or door brand with the ENERGY STAR® label on it is crafted with the buyer’s specification in mind.
Below are some of the window consumer biddings that are well-addressed by products with the ENERGY STAR® logo:
- Reduced energy bills – Certified doors, windows and skylights have been shown by D&R International to shrink bills by an average 12 per cent per year compared to products from non-certified manufacturers.
- Comfort – With weatherized windows, one doesn’t have to avoid seats next to the windows and doors because the whole room is equally cool (or equally warm). Unlike non-certified products, which tend to draw heat from bodies of house dwellers during cold weather, ENERGY STAR® certified windows and doors are non-conductors of heat, hence they harmonize with the thermostat reading regardless of the temperatures outside. Likewise, for a hot summer’s sun with standard double-pane doors and windows installed only 75 per cent of the heat from outside finds its way into the house.
- Protection of valuables – Family photographs embedded on the walls, drapes and wood floors are all destined to lose their original quality and hue with continuous exposure to sun rays. Double-paned windows and doors do not just serve as shields from summer heat and winter chills but also as sunscreen for items inside the house, preserving them in their original quality.
- Tax credit – Homeowners may receive an energy efficiency tax credit equaling 10 per cent of the product’s cost.
- Certified performance – ENERGY STAR® windows are known to perform as labelled and rated by the program.
What Makes Energy Star® Windows, Doors and Skylights Energy Efficient?
Contrary to the universal perception that heat insulation is strictly down to the presence of double glass panes on the windows and doors, virtually every part of an ENERGY STAR® product is optimized to contribute to the course. The window/door frame is made of low-maintenance materials, specially designed for maximum insulation as well as durability.
The glasses are of Low-E quality, which not only reflects infrared light to keep heat inside during the winter and outside during the summer, but also impedes the damaging ultraviolet light from reaching vulnerable materials such as seats and carpets. Between the panes in some ENERGY STAR®-certified windows is a special type of gas (either argon or krypton) that is odourless, colourless, non-toxic and a better insulator than regular air. There is also the warm edge spacer at the point of attachment between the glasses and the frame, which keeps the panes separated by the right margin and insulated at the edges to minimize transfer of heat between them.
It should be noted that all windows do not offer equal insulation. Just like any other category of products, energy-efficient windows vary in superiority. There are those that contain regular air between the panes, those that are triple-paned and others that sport common-window frames. They deliver differently and the NFRC rates them according to their performance rather than make-up. The two main metrics used are the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, which is a measure of heat permeability, and U-Value, which is a measure of a window’s resistance to heat loss. The lower the value for either metric, the better the quality of the window.