Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Committee Week Meeting Closes, NFRC Blog Remains Open

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) wrapped up its Committee Week Meeting with this morning's open Board of Directors meeting, but you don't have to wait until this summer to share your thoughts and ideas with your fellow members.

As noted earlier in the week, this blog is your blog. It is the ideal place for you keep up on the issues, learn what others are thinking, and brainstorm new ideas.

Attachments Label -- A Prominent, Ongoing Issue

The topic that figured most prominently during this week's discussions was the development of an attachments rating label that is clear and meaningful for consumers. This topic triggered a spirited yet professional discussion on Tuesday afternoon and again Wednesday morning.

Members of NFRC's BOD explained that the organization is not calling on manufacturers to use any particular methodology (such as icons) in creating a label. Instead, it is merely seeking a meaningful alternative to the use of U-factor and SHGC ratings.

The overarching goal here is for any labeling methodology to assist consumers in making the best decisions for themselves.

The meeting may be over, but this issue remains, and you can discuss it here.

What Do You Think?

On Tuesday, Potomac Communications Group presented research indicating that consumers want to know where a product falls on a scale.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

What kind of scale would you create to assist consumers in making the best choices for themselves?

Is there an alternative to providing consumers with a scale? If so, what would you recommend?

What is the best way to pursue the development of the attachments label?

Is more research needed?

NFRC's Hanlon Calls on Participating Manufacturers to Get Involved in BVP

During this morning’s open Board of Directors meeting, NFRC’s Program Director, Scott Hanlon, discussed the key to making the Blind Verification Program (BVP) successful.

Hanlon told the membership that NFRC's staff will be distributing a survey to all participating manufacturers and emphasized that the results can provide valuable insight for the direction, operations, and ultimately the success of the BVP.

“We need to hear from you," Hanlon said. "This program can only work if you provide us with your feedback.”

The target date for implementing the BVP is January 2013.

What Do you Think?

Do you see getting involved as the key to success for the BVP?

Do you think the BVP is good for consumers? Why or why not?

How might participating in the BVP influence the way you conduct business?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Members Debate Use of Icons on Attachments Label, Seek Alternatives

NFRC members just finished debating whether the use of icons on the attachments label would provide consumers with information accurate enough to make the best choice for themselves.

Those who oppose the use of icons say it would confuse consumers because it lacks precision. They contend that NFRC can only accomplish its mission to provide consumers with fair and accurate ratings by using numbers on the attachments label.

Those who favor the use of icons, however, say it would be easier for consumers to understand, and it would serve NFRC’s goal to provide consumers with information that is not only accurate but also meaningful.

NFRC's Executive Director pointed out that the organization is not calling on manufacturers to use icons on the attachments label but is instead seeking a meaningful alternative to the use of U-factor and SHGC ratings.
The overarching goal here is for any labeling methodology to assist consumers in making the best decisions for themselves.

The results of focus group studies supported by NFRC reveal that consumers want to know where a product falls on a scale.

Tell us What you Think

Do you favor using icons on the attachments label? Why or why not?

Would an attachments rating system that uses icons help your customers or confuse them?

The overarching goal for NFRC’s attachments rating program is for any label to be comprehensible and to indicate energy performance.

Do you have an alternative idea for a label that could help consumers make the best choices for themselves?


Making Door Labels Easy to Understand for Consumers Without Challenging Manufacturers

The Ratings Committee is involved in a discussion about door labels and the need to communicate useful rating information to consumers.

One concern among members, however, is that including additional information, such as the CPD number, may become burdensome for independent door manufacturers.

Some members believe there needs to be a system in place for identifying specific components in specific fields in the CPD number, and that this must be done prior to requiring door manufacturers to add the CPD number to the NFRC label.

The rationale here is that identifying components within the CPD number will provide a way to identify, sort, and separate the information into a more descriptive and usable format.

How would you approach this situation to avoid causing undue hardship for independent door manufacturers?

How might consumers benefit from this concept?

What can be done to make door labels easier to understand and more meaningful for consumers?

Optional Use of Bar Codes Cleared During Ratings Committee Block

The Ratings Committee just concluded a discussion that gives manufacturers the option of using bar codes on the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label
Following some discussion to revise the precise language in the ballot, NFRC members voted to provide manufacturers with the option of using either a linear or matrix (2D) style bar code.

Do you advocate the use of bar codes? Why or why not?

Can the use of bar codes create any new opportunities for your organization?

Which style bar code do you think is more effective? Why?

Members Concerned Over “Stars” Rating for Attachments

Several members have expressed their concern over the viability of the use of stars on the attachments label as a method for enabling consumers to compare energy performance.

One opponent believes it would create confusion because of the sheer number of products that would have the same rating. Another opponent believes consumers consistently prefer using U-factor and SHGC ratings.

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), however, pointed out that it is not telling the industry to use stars. Instead, it is calling for the use of a ratings system that is clear, meaningful, and provides an accurate method for helping consumers compare similar attachment products.

Additional Perspective

The National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) Board of Directors agrees that a “Stars” rating on an attachment label meets the direction it previously approved.

Additional information on the label may be provided as long as it continues to meet Board direction and as long as the rating not be stated as a U-Factor and/or SHGC numerical rating.

This, however, does not exclude the use of U-factor and SHGC numerical data from other NFRC material related to attachments.

The discussion on the attachments label will continue during the afternoon session.

What Do you Think?

How do you feel about the use of the stars or other icons on the NFRC attachments label?

Some say the use of stars would be more meaningful for consumers because such ratings are commonly used for hotels and movies and are therefore easier to identify with. Does this suggest the use of stars would be equally as meaningful in the fenestration industry?

What alternative ideas do you have?

NFRC Resumes Work in Las Vegas

The second day of the National Fenestration Rating Council's (NFRC) Committee Week Meeting kicked off this morning with a discussion on attachments.

What do you think is most important to consider in the development of NFRC's attachments program? Are you seeing a demand for attachment ratings among your customers? What are you hearing in the marketplace?

Post your questions and comments here, and we'll help you get the information you need.

Would you like to work on the attachments task group? Let us know, and we'll help you get involved.

Monday, March 28, 2011

RFP Regarding Spandrel Systems Sent Back, Outside NFRC’s Purview?

Shah oversees discussion on spandrel systems
During this morning's Research Subcommittee block, Chair, Bipin Shah, facilitated a discussion that resulted in NFRC members voting to return to its proponent an RFP regarding spandrel systems performance validation, saying the scope of the work falls outside NFRC's purview. 

The ballot regarding the RFP says that while spandrel systems differ somewhat from standard fenestration products, they still fit NFRC’s definition of a fenestration product and should therefore be included in the rating procedure for non-residential products.

The RFP suggests completing the following tasks:
  • Designing and building various spandrel systems for testing. 
  • Shipping test specimens to an NFRC approved laboratory for testing.  
  • Conducting computer simulation of spandrel framing members for inclusion into the CMAST program.  
  • Reviewing test data and comparing them with the simulation results.
Those who opposed the RFP contend this work falls outside NFRC’s purview, citing that other organizations may be better suited.

Following a member vote, the RFP will be returned to the proponent for further action.

Do you think the work, as set forth in these tasks, falls outside NFRC's purview? How are you involved with spandrel systems?

How might pursuing or not pursuing this RFP influence your customers and the way you do business?

NFRC Committee Week Meeting Underway in Las Vegas

Send us your questions for the Research and Technology Committee

The National Fenestration Rating Council's (NFRC) Committee Week Meeting is underway at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The proceedings began this morning with the Research and Technology Committee setting the stage for discussing the ballots involved with a number of RFPs.

One discussion will be concerned with developing a test standard (comparable to the ASTM E2264) for whole window products. Another will focus on the development of a test standard (comparable to ASTM E2190) to provide a lifetime performance standard for whole window products.

The committee will also discuss identifying the list of typical spandrel system specimens and simulation and testing for U-factors to validate simulation procedures. 

Finally, the Research and Technology Committee will undertake a discussion that involves crafting a methodology for quantifying the development of thermal stresses in residential and commercial insulating glass units. During this discussion, particular emphasis will be placed on high-performing products.

Can't Be Here? We'll Get your Questions Answered

NFRC realizes that many people concerned with these topics cannot attend the Committee Week Meeting. Please post your questions and concerns here, and we'll find an expert who can help you.

Alternatively, you can post your questions in the comments section.

NFRC and your fellow members want to know what you think. Tell us here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Blog is Your Blog

The National Fenestration Rating Council's (NFRC) blog started out as a reporting tool, but beginning with this meeting it will serve as a communications tool.

The content that will be posted here during the meeting is designed to serve you -- the NFRC members who have committed their time and resources to travel to Las Vegas and take part in improving our programs. It is this kind of commitment that helps all of us better serve our stakeholders and the public.

This is the place to share your ideas, feedback, and industry expertise with a highly-targeted audience.

Let's get things started by considering why this meeting is important to you.
  • What are the "hot button" issues?
  • What do you hope to gain from the meeting?
  • What information is most important to your stakeholders/customers?
Click on the "comment" tab below and let us know. Your peers want to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Columnist Dowd Discusses Choosing the Right Windows in Different Climates

In this installment, Dean Dowd, Chief Technology Officer for National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) member company, CalFinder, discusses how to choose the right windows for your climate.

By Dean Dowd

Which Types of Windows are Best for Your Climate?

To save money on your energy bills with new windows, you must first find the appropriate match for your climate. This may seem like a straightforward concept, but you’d be amazed at how often homeowners replace their windows with ones that are totally unsuitable for their local weather.

And you know what that leads to: untold heating and cooling dollars out the window (quite literally in this case). So in this week’s article, we’ll focus on how to reduce your energy bill by finding the best windows for your own climate. Here’s how to go about it.

Know Your Zone

First things first. To find the right replacement windows, first double-check your climate zone. Energy-Star, a government-sponsored energy-efficiency initiative, divides the United States into four main climate regions: Southern, South-Central, Northern, and North-Central.

Locate your zone using the map
available here.

Homes in the Northern zone will benefit the most from windows rated with a U-factor of 0.30 or less and an SHGC of 0.35 or greater. Those in the North-Central zone (Kentucky, for instance) will perform best with a U-Factor between 0.28-0.32 and an SHGC of less than 0.39.

For the Southern zone, consider a window that has a rating of 0.60 or slightly less, and an SHGC of 0.25-0.27. Finally, homes in the South-Central zone (MS, for example) will get the best efficiency from a U-Factor 0.25-0.35/SHGC 0.30 or less-rated window.

Choosing the Right Window the First Time

NFRC rates and labels most new and replacement windows made. These labels contain pertinent data on window energy efficiencies, such as:

• The U-Factor, or how well the window insulates against heat loss. A U-Factor of 0.20 is generally the most insulating and 1.20 the least.

Air Leakage (AL), which describes the level of air that escapes or enters via the tiny crevices in a window frame, is measured by cubic feet per square foot (cfm/sq ft). The lower the AL, the less air that passes through the frame.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is how well a window blocks the radiant heat in sunlight. It is a number between 0 and 1, with the lowest number being the most ideal for keeping the most heat out.

Knowing these factors (among other pertinent but sometimes optional ratings), it’s important to realize that all windows leak heat come winter and allow it in the summer. With a highly energy-efficient window that’s mated properly to its climate, though, the leakage will be virtually non-existent.


Looks like a random bunch of numbers and confusion by now, huh? It's not. In addition to the information on this site, your contractor (given that they’re knowledgeable and up to date on window product ratings) should know your local climate and which type of window works best almost by heart.

So let's here about your experience. Has anyone found the NFRC label helpful in choosing the right kind of windows for their climate zone?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Guest Columnist Dowd Discusses Installing Energy Efficient Windows

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) is concerned with energy performance rating and certification programs for windows, doors, and skylights, otherwise known as fenestration products.

While NFRC focuses on educating the public about these activities and programs, we also recognize that once we have assisted consumers in choosing products to improve energy efficiency, many of them still have questions about installing the products.

NFRC does not recommend or endorse any products, retailers, or installation companies. Nevertheless, we are pleased to welcome comments from Dean Dowd at NFRC member company, CalFinder. Here Dean provides consumers of energy efficient windows with some peripheral insight.

By Dean Dowd

Working with Your Contractor to Ensure a Successful Window Installation

Installing new, energy-efficient windows not only increases your home’s resale value, it also reduces your heating and cooling bills. But choosing the right contractor—and then working with them throughout the installation—can sometimes be a real chore. Consider the following tips that any homeowner looking to replace their windows should know before hiring and working with a contractor.

Choosing the Right Contractor—Your 5-Step Checklist

1. To get an accurate estimate, collect information about your existing windows. Take pictures, get measurements, and ascertain the basic condition of the frames.

2. Obtain at least three bids in writing, and remember, do not always assume that the lowest bidder will be just as good as the next guy—it could go either way. Paying a little more to get a better contractor is often worth the added expense.

3. Most states have some form of licensing bureau, so it’s best to check with them to make sure your contractor has the right licenses or permits. In addition, you can check other credentials, like memberships with the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) and Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA).

4. Demand references, check your local BBB office, and find out from previous clients if they were completely satisfied and that the work began and ended punctually.

5. Also demand proof from the contractor that he is fully insured and bonded. Any good contractor should have a minimum of liability and workers-compensation insurance, as well as some sort of waiver of liability in case the contractor does not pay his own bills.

Selected a Contractor and Ready to Go?

Once you’ve done your homework and found the perfect contractor, the single most important thing to do is to get a contract written and signed. Any sound construction contract will include, at a minimum:

• The contractor or business's full name, address (never accept only a P/O box), and applicable phone numbers—especially that of the lead person(s).

• License number if applicable in your locale.

• A comprehensive ‘blueprint’ of the window installation/replacement process, the materials needed and the contractor’s guarantee on quality of materials and workmanship.

• Charges: This fundamental component should detail the expected cost, e.g. hours billable and cost of materials.

Additionally, do not let a contractor charge you more than 15% of the total cost before starting work. Homeowners sometimes elect to pay somewhere around 30% at the midpoint and the remainder upon completion of installation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Guest Blogger, Dowd, Discusses Common Misconceptions about Window Technology

Dean Dowd is the Chief Technology Officer for NFRC member company, CalFinder. This week, Dowd picks up where he left off, providing additional thoughts on understanding energy efficient windows.

By Dean Dowd

There are many misconceptions, not to mention all-out, baseless myths—about replacement windows and their performance. So, without further adieu, let's get to debunking and shed some light on the matter.

Four Common Window and Window Replacement Myths

1. Installing highly energy efficient windows will save you hundreds of dollars per month or year.

Some claims regarding the amount of money one can save are exaggerated. Say, for instance, that you buy and install a brand-new window with the highest energy-efficiency ratings (U-Factor of about 0.18 and an AL of <0.3 cfm/sq ft, for example) for an average cost of $130 plus installation. While the resale value of your home definitely goes up and you'll likely experience less heat gain in the summer and more in the winter, your return on investment (ROI) will be very minimal for several months, and it will take at least a year or two to recoup the cost of the window and installation.

It is best to think of your investment in windows as producing a return over time rather than right away.

2. Replacing an older single-pane window with a double-pane, double-glazed one will always raise energy efficiency and lower heating and cooling bills

The lines are a little blurry on this idea. In a perfect scenario, yes, double-pane glass will be significantly more energy efficient than older, single-paned ones, especially if the latter is poorly sealed. However, even double (or triple) pane windows can be just as energy-robbing as old windows if the sashes and frame are incorrectly installed, and/or the window edging is improperly fit to the structural frame (even if it's only off by a centimeter).

3. In the event of a tornado, opening a window or two will help balance the pressure inside the house when the ultra-low pressures inside a tornado hit, thus preventing the explosion (or implosion) of the house.

The physics of this one are actually pretty sound in theory, but with one major problem: in the real world, a tornado's raging, 100-mph-outer-winds will annihilate virtually anything in their path, so you'd be very fortunate to reach that point in a tornado (to that theoretical point of ultra-low pressure near the center) without your entire house being ripped off its foundation first. Therefore, it's completely nonsense.

4. Simply placing newspaper, a towel, or other 'insulating' material between the frames will solve the problem of old, drafty windows.

This "theory" is probably the easiest one here to quickly dispel. Using household items such as duct tape, towels, newspaper, or—the worst idea ever but one that's too frequently seen—aluminum or tin foil, may provide very short-term relief from heat gain or loss, but is ultimately just a band-aid that will eventually have to be replaced with a professionally-made and engineered window, as even half-good window manufacturers sell.

We hope this has helped clear up some of the most often-repeated myths about window technology. If you have any more questions or myths to debunk, just let us know in the comments below.