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Why Third Party Certification Should Be Your First Choice

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When you buy windows, doors, or skylights that are promoted as more energy efficient, you want to be sure they are going to perform as advertised. One way to make a more educated choice is to understand how they were certified.

With a number of certification and labeling programs in the marketplace, it’s important to know how to evaluate them so you can accurately compare the products they represent and spend your money wisely.

Certification labels offer a convenient tool for verifying a product manufacturer’s claims. They are intended to provide peace of mind, but similar labels often have conflicting criteria for certification. Ironically, this sometimes confuses purchasers, triggering skepticism and ultimately causing them to choose familiar brands over more energy-efficient alternatives.

While there are no national standards for establishing what makes windows, doors, or skylights "green," purchasers can still make more informed choices by learning how certification labels are created and awarded.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established three categories for voluntary certification and labeling programs:

First party. This is self-certification. It is somewhat dubious because its standards are not clearly defined. Moreover, it comes directly from the manufacturer rather than an independent, outside source.

Second party. This is more credible than first party certification because it relies on outside standard-setting organizations to verify performance claims. Second parties, however, are not independent. They typically have a business relationship with the first party, creating a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, the criteria for determining whether a product is “green” are not always standardized.

Third party. This is the most trustworthy and reliable form of product certification. Third parties are truly independent because they have no business or monetary relationship with product manufacturers. This makes their test results purely objective and unbiased. Third parties also publish clearly-defined standards.

Furthermore, third parties are transparent. Their product testing standards are created by manufacturers in public forums using a consensus-based process.

Finally, third parties are the most nurturing of innovation. Their unbiased test results educate purchasers, making them more discerning. This in turn encourages manufacturers to compete by implementing new ideas and technologies that protect our health, safety, and the environment.

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