Even If The Builder Says They Are Energy Star Windows

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

Here is how you can know how good your windows are even if the builder says they are Energy Star windows.

First of all - we need some definitions.  Lots of buzz words and catch phrases get thrown around.

Energy Star - this has been around since 1992, a program introduced by the EPA as a voluntary program, first to rate computers and monitors for efficiency standards.  It has since grown to include many appliances, electronics, windows, doors and other home/office products.  Different areas of the country have different standards for many things due to differences in climate, temperature, etc.  Standards change all the time, and when products have an Energy Star label on them they have met the most recent standard for that product.

U-Factor - this measures the window's ability to insulate against heat transfer.  The number is between 0 and 1.  The U-factor is divided into 1 to show the R-value (Resistance Value) of the window.  A lower U-factor would mean a higher R-value, and better insulation.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) - this tells you how well the window blocks the heat from the sun.  Typically windows range from .12 to .80.  A lower number indicates a better blocking ability, and less heat would be felt when the sun shines on the window.

Visible Transmittance (VT) - this tells how much light the window lets in.  Numbers for windows are usually between .20 and .80.  The higher the number the more light is let in.

Low-E (Low Emissivity) - a very thin layer of metallic particles is spread usually on the interior of the outside pane of a double-pane window.  This layer acts as a filter to keep out the harmful long wavelengths of light, and allowing in the shorter wavelengths.  Different coatings do different things - create lower U-factors, protect against fading, etc.  And adding an inert gas inside, like argon, further increases window efficiency.  Almost all windows now have Low-E characteristics.

Click this link to see what the Energy Star standards are for windows in your area.

On a pre-drywall inspection I asked my client if this was a an Energy Star house.  She said yes, according to the contract.  So I pointed out that the windows were not Energy Star rated for Virginia.

Windows have an energy sticker on them, called the NFRC label (the National Fenestration Rating Council).

This is a fictional sticker but similar to what a window company would put on its window.

To qualify as Energy Star in your area there would be a map that so indicates.  The map would color in the states that consider that window to be Energy Star rated. 

WDSLabel1AColor

Some windows are very good.

They qualify everywhere.

The windows that do not qualify would have no such map.

My client asked me to wait to listen to what the supervisor had to say on her walk through.  She wanted to make sure that she wasn't fed any lines.

To be truthful, I needed really high boots to protect me from all the barnyard filth being thrown around!  I couldn't believe it.

The exchange regarding the windows went like this:

"My contract says this is an Energy Star house, but the windows are not Energy Star for Virginia."

"We build our houses strictly to Energy Star standards."    Um, this is not the same as being an Energy Star house - that is a certification given by another organization and it is NOT determined by the builder.

"But the sticker on the windows says they don't meet those standards."

"All our windows are Low-E and see, they are Energy Star" (pointing to the symbol here).  Not only does that not answer the question, but that Energy Star Partner sticker only means that the window company does produce Energy Star windows, but not that these windows meet any criteria.  This answer was complete pap.

"But what about these windows?"

"Well, I don't know.  It might be that when they picked out these windows for your house that was the standard and it has changed since."    What?!!  It was getting too thick to stand much longer and I was really biting my tongue. 

Most Efficient 2014 logo

But I couldn't stand it any more.  For the first time on a pre-drywall inspection, I spoke up.  "There have been no changes to Energy Star standards in Virginia for many, many years.  These windows come no where close to Energy Star standards.  The sticker you pointed to is meaningless.  The standard is to change later this year, to be more stringent and to indicate the best products of the best." 

And then the weakest statement of all - he said, "Well, these are the same windows we use on all our houses.  I'll look into it."

To that I could only roll my eyes.  If you want to read about these new standards, click here.

My recommendation:  sometimes the bull flies thick and fast.  This was not the only thing he said to my client that was phony or incorrect!  I was truly amazed.  But, nonetheless, you MUST have a pre-drywall inspection on new construction!  To put it simply, we don't know what we don't know!

 

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Blogged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Joe Pryor 07/24/2014 12:34 AM
  2. Les & Sarah Oswald 07/24/2014 12:17 PM
  3. Lori Cain 08/02/2014 09:46 PM
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Rainmaker
2,708,599
James Dray
Fathom Realty AR LLC - Bentonville, AR
Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results

I thought an energy star rating was good for anywhere.  No idea it varied from region to region

Jul 24, 2014 09:01 PM #32
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

It would vary necessarily James.  We have many different climates in our country.

Jul 24, 2014 09:05 PM #33
Rainmaker
592,715
Than Maynard
Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma - Purcell, OK
Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862

Yes, Energy Star Partner means nothing for that particular product. It would need the Energy Star Rated sticker.

I built energy efficient homes for years, but stopped going for the rating when one of my ICF homes with expanded foam sprayed everywhere that wasn't ICF couldn't pass the blower door test. The cheapest tract builder in Norman was getting the highest rating and they only used batt insulation in 2x4 walls.

Someone's palm wanted to be greased is all I can figure.

Jul 25, 2014 12:45 AM #34
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Blower door tests can be rigged Than.  Pointing to the partner logo was just a lie on a lie.

Jul 25, 2014 12:48 AM #35
Rainmaker
488,139
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay, great post. The most energy efficient window in a house are the ones that are not there ;) 

Funny how some builders will not look beyond their nose and thing what their customer is really after and at least give them the option to have a choice. 

Remember the old adage " I have been building home for 30 years"... 

 

30 years of wrong is still wrong ;)

Jul 26, 2014 12:06 AM #36
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

The minimum standard is the minimum standard Don.  Energy Star criteria are easily exceeded, and for not much more money.

The best windows have a leakage stat.  I'm not sure what the best windows provide in that regard, but if you're going with a good window that one probably provides the best leak resistance.

Jul 26, 2014 12:08 AM #37
Rainmaker
626,897
Bill Reddington
Re/max Southern Realty - Destin, FL
Destin Florida Real Estate

I am all for the green thing. But as you stated all it means is more expense. Wanted to put in a natural gas tankless water heater. But the cost to do that was like a 10 year payout. Just not worth it.

Jul 26, 2014 12:03 PM #38
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I agree Bill.  Green is just common sense.  It needs nothing special to be accomplished.  But it does mean more money and few of the studies that I have done, or read about, indicate that you even break even, Bill! 

When I did my tankless water heater thing many years ago (blog on AR) the payout was three times the life span of the unit.  Stupid in my opinion.  Plus the problems and huge, huge, huge expense when it breaks down, and they seem to break down often.  I have not read ONE study that says to get one.

Good windows/doors are a great investment in a new home because they are amortized into the loan.  To "upgrade" the house is very nice, but you will never break even in a lifetime.

Jul 26, 2014 08:56 PM #39
Rainmaker
683,580
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

To play a little devils advocate, perhaps the supervisor is ignorant of the standards. They could be ording windows they believe are Energy Star rated. Doesn't excuse it. I would think if one is building such houses one should know the standards. 

Jul 26, 2014 10:53 PM #40
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Jim - listening to the supervisor talk he seemed ignorant of a lot of things!

But you are right, the builder knows the standards if they are advertising to meet them.

Once I had a builder not know that insulation should be stapled (national builder) and because of my report and links I sent them actually changed their policy!

Jul 27, 2014 01:55 AM #41
Rainmaker
3,924,403
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jay, great post on windows in new construction, and nice to know the difference between them.

Jul 27, 2014 10:09 PM #42
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Joan.  I'm glad you know now too!

Jul 28, 2014 03:53 AM #43
Rainmaker
4,695,332
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
"Franklin MA Homes"

Good morning, Jay....surprise, surprise for that buyer.... she didn't close yet, so there's always a way out....

Jul 29, 2014 12:03 AM #44
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

This is my third inspection over the years with that little lady,* Barbara, and I think I know what she will have them do!

* Masochist?  She keeps calling me back!  This is the third time in 10 years or so.

Jul 29, 2014 12:46 AM #45
Rainmaker
3,245,046
Lou Ludwig
Ludwig & Associates - Boca Raton, FL
Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC

Jay

Great job on explaining the topic . . . . your points on energy star windows are right on the money.

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Aug 02, 2014 06:29 AM #46
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Lou.  Glad you enjoyed the presentation!

Aug 02, 2014 06:50 AM #47
Rainmaker
1,452,469
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

It is a really valuable information about difference in windows. I did not know most of that. Thanks for explaining!

Aug 17, 2014 05:00 PM #48
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Inna - window technology is something that has gotten better and better.  And since they are there so long, why not get the best?

Aug 17, 2014 09:11 PM #49
Rainmaker
1,893,302
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
DFW FINE PROPERTIES - Southlake, TX
Selling Homes Changing Lives

As I now face window replacement, this post was ver helpful. Thankyou!

Aug 22, 2014 02:36 AM #50
Rainmaker
1,809,743
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Aug 22, 2014 02:43 AM #51
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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