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EPA Abandons Average Consumers in Window and Skylight Proposal

Despite a growing outcry, the EPA abandons average consumers shopping for ENERGY STAR windows and skylights with a new proposal.


Despite a growing concern among tens of thousands of American citizens, the EPA today pushed forward a proposal that would take ENERGY STAR windows and skylights out of reach for many average consumers.

Its final draft of ENERGY STAR Version 6.0 program requirements for residential windows, doors, and skylights, released today, marks a sharp departure from past practice of balancing consumer accessibility against the need to raise efficiency standards over time. EPA staff admitted they set the new standards for windows with a goal of reaching “a market share of less than 50% after the Version 6.0 specification takes effect” from just over 80%. (Version 6.0 Draft 1 Criteria and Analysis Report, p8.)

Recent survey data from EPA found that 87% of Americans recognize the ENERGY STAR BRAND and 73% of those who bought ENERGY STAR rated products intentionally chose them because they believe in the label’s promise of energy savings and lower utility bills. Congress and the President should not allow this taxpayer-funded program to abandon that promise to consumers by changing its mission now.

The Coalition for Home Energy Efficiency launched a petition in April to give consumers a voice in this debate. The petition has gathered more than 20,000 signatures after raising concerns the program was intentionally taking ENERGY STAR products out of reach for average consumers.

“Obviously we are disappointed that EPA hasn’t responded to our concerns, but consumers need a voice in this debate and we plan to keep fighting,” said Coalition Executive Director Sherry Delaney. “This move isn’t just anti-consumer, it’s anti-environment since average consumers will lose the clear guidance upon which they’ve grown to rely for making energy efficient improvements to their homes.  If the EPA can make these kinds of anti-consumer changes for windows and skylights, who knows which products will be next.  We’re asking Americans to email to urge EPA to save the ENERGY STAR program for average consumers.”

It isn’t just consumers who have raised concerns, industry leaders have voiced concerns as well.  “Our members have been long-time ENERGY STAR partners and we cannot recall a time when the program set market share as a target,” said Michael O’Brien, CEO of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association. “Average consumers rely on the ENERGY STAR label to identify products that will save them enough on utility bills in a reasonable period to offset the cost of making a more energy efficient choice. We don’t understand why the program would take that away from such a large number of consumers.”

Leading retailers have raised similar concerns: “Consumers expect the ENERGY STAR brand to deliver on affordability and efficiency, with any additional costs recouped in a relatively short payback period. That promise inherent in ENERGY STAR has become a hallmark of the program and an important consideration when selecting products,” said Michael Chenard, Director of Corporate Sustainability for Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

The proposed Version 6.0 criteria would change required energy performance ratings for windows and skylights in large parts of the country, making triple-paned products or the use of expensive technologies the most viable ways for manufacturers to qualify for the ENERGY STAR label. Most ENERGY STAR windows sold now are more affordable double-paned products: Many of these still would be widely available to consumers but no longer ENERGY STAR qualified, forcing shoppers to decipher U-factors, solar heat gain coefficients and other such data on their own to decide which windows are a good value. The proposed new rules would effectively strip average consumers of the “easy choice” ENERGY STAR has always promised.

To meet its own timeline requirements, EPA moved the compliance deadline to Jan. 1, 2015 from Jan. 1, 2014. The U-factor for windows in the North-central zone was raised to .30 from .29. But the area of greatest concern to a large number of consumers and the industry – the Northern zone – remains unchanged. The Northern zone covers almost half of the country.

The Coalition for Home Energy Efficiency is a broad group of environmental and consumer activists, manufacturers, and retailers who want to preserve and protect the ENERGY STAR program and its promise of an easy choice for consumers.


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