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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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Drexel Student Shares Vision for Future of Household Energy Generation and Storage.

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NFRC welcomes guest blogger, Alex McBride, from Drexel University. In the article below, he explains the future of generating and storing household energy. NFRC welcomes your comments on how this might impact the fenestration industry. 

In general, there two ways to make something affordable: make it big, or make a lot of it. Traditional power generation methods, namely coal and natural gas power plants, employ the former.

A few huge power plants are more cost effective than building a lot of small power-plants. As we slowly transition away from these technologies towards renewable sources the opposite economic approach-I believe-becomes more favorable.

This largely due to the science behind the different energy generation schemes. Energy from sources like solar, wind, and oceanic are intermittent in nature, requiring effective energy storage before practical implementation is possible.  The materials used in energy storage systems like batteries and supercapacitors, simply cannot effectively handle massive energy loads for long periods of time, and other larger energy storage systems , like pumped-hydroelectric, are far less efficient.

An easy example to understand is the use of Li-ion batteries. While these batteries are very effective at storing small amounts of energy, for use in your cell-phone or laptop, it is far more difficult to build a big enough and reliable Li-ion electric car battery. Responding to the need for better energy storage,

I lead a team of freshman at Drexel University supervised by Dr. Yury Gogotsi, a Materials Science and Engineering professor there, to conduct research in this field. By the end of our first year at Drexel, we developed a new prototype that uses what we call “electrochemical flow capacitors” to store energy.

This technology stores energy by passing carbon particles through oppositely charged plates, and storing these charged particles in two separate tanks before re-pumping the charged carbon slurry back through the same plates to recapture the energy.

Our final prototype is a demonstration of our vision for the future of household energy generation and storage.

It consists of a solar panel converting sunlight to electrical energy, our elecrochemical flow capacitor that stores the energy, and a LED to provide illumination when needed. We envision households in the future that have solar panels on the roof, and EFC tanks in the basement (next to the HVAC system), to produce, supply, and store energy effectively.  

The true unique aspect to this technology comes in the ability to scale the system to any needed capacity, by simply changing the size of the storage tanks. To this effect, better understanding of energy dynamics within households, and educating consumers which products are more energy efficient is an important role.

Video about our prototype

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Improved Fenestration Energy Performance Code Enforcement Benefits Triple Bottom Line

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Thursday, August 14, 2014

Code officials sometimes overlook fenestration energy performance, but improved enforcement can bolster your triple bottom line (TBL).

With fewer than 30 percent of commercial buildings using high-performance glazing and savings of seven to 15 percent possible in homes, more rigorous code enforcement is essential for making our communities greener, cleaner, and more sustainable.

So, how much room is there for improvement?

According to a 2012 study by
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL), aggregate energy lost through inefficient windows amounts to $50 billion annually.

While many people believe the transportation industry is the largest source of energy consumption in America, it is actually buildings. Given this staggering cost of inefficiency, improved energy code enforcement can strengthen the TBL.

One way it does this is by creating jobs for codes experts, energy auditors, weatherization specialists, and system commissioning agents.

Another way it contributes to the TBL is by reducing cooling costs. Over and above creating more comfortable and affordable living conditions, this also leaves consumers with extra money to spend on other goods and services.


Furthermore, improved energy code enforcement helps building occupants reap the benefits of daylighting. Studies show this improves productivity, leading to increased profits. This additional revenue can then be used for business refinements, including investments in employee education and benefits.


Finally, all these benefits working together allow an organization to polish its reputation as an upstanding corporate citizen.  


One option for realizing improved fenestration energy code enforcement is linking proof of compliance to eligibility for federal funding. This would highlight its importance among local governments and throughout the private sector while helping our communities thrive.

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Consumer Awareness of NFRC Growing

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Friday, August 1, 2014
Consumer awareness of the National Fenestration Rating Council's (NFRC) certification and labeling program has shown steady growth over the past 16 years. 

During July 2014, NFRC conducted a survey of 1401 U.S. homeowners and found that of the 115 who had purchased new windows, doors, or skylights within the past 12 months 19 percent were familiar with the organization's work.

This amount represents 14 percent growth in awareness among U.S. consumers since 1998.

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EPA Seeking Feedback on Labeling Guidance for ENERGY STAR Windows, Doors, and Skylights for Version 6.0

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Monday, July 28, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing a draft version of Labeling Guidance for ENERGY STAR® Windows, Doors, and Skylights for Version 6.0 and asking stakeholders to provide feedback.

According the EPA’s press release, the document describes the proper use of the ENERGY STAR label on products, product displays, and product packaging.

All uses of the ENERGY STAR label must comply with the final version of this guidance beginning January 1, 2015.

The deadline for ENERGY STAR partners to provide feedback is Friday, August 8, 2014.

EPA specifically requests feedback on the content, clarity, and consistency of the guidance.

EPA is fielding questions at

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A Path Forward for Energy Code Compliance

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Friday, July 25, 2014

This content was provided to NFRC courtesy of guest blogger, Ryan Meres, Senior Code Compliance Specialist, with the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT). The original article, including graphics, is available here.

As I approach my third anniversary as IMT’s code specialist and my eighth year working with building energy codes, I find it a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned about improving energy code compliance in the U.S., while also contemplating some opportunities for increasing compliance going forward.

Code compliance—or, more specifically, the lack thereof—has been a constant challenge, as local legislative bodies, building departments, and inspectors are often insufficiently educated on the hows and whys of enforcing the energy code, among other barriers. Energy codes also suffer from a lack of public appeal: A bright solar panel is a lot sexier than new insulation.

However, over the past five years energy code compliance has gained more attention. Some of this attention can be attributed to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which placed a large focus (and significant short-term funding) on energy code compliance by requiring states to reach 90 percent compliance with their energy code by 2017 in order to receive energy funding.

This investment helped get the ball rolling on recognizing energy code compliance as an area that could yield significant energy savings in America’s buildings.

The majority of ARRA compliance funding went to state-wide compliance assessments—and although they were designed to provide a statistically valid compliance rate for a state, there was little guidance on how to improve compliance rates or funding to assist with improvement initiatives. One problem was compliance assessment results were aggregated to the state level, yet the verification of compliance was and still is the responsibility of local jurisdictions. In most cases states have little influence on the compliance verification process and don’t have the ability to implement improvement initiatives.

Recognizing these resource constraints and this gap in capabilities is key

The solution to improving energy code compliance is to work with local building departments to evaluate their quantitative compliance rate and to conduct a qualitative assessment to understand the reasons behind that compliance rate. In city compliance assessments that IMT commissioned the Britt/Makela Group to conduct, it was discovered that commercial fenestration was commonly non-compliant, but the reasons for this differed from city to city. 

A good qualitative evaluation will uncover whether non-compliance can be attributed to an architect not specifying the proper window glazing, an inspector not verifying compliance, or to actions of the building department, the building industry, and even elected officials or city policy.

Many local jurisdictions can feel threatened by this type of evaluation because they view it as a criticism or audit of their work. However, by working with them and respecting the important and difficult work that building officials, plans examiners, permit technicians, and inspectors do on a daily basis to verify hundreds of code provisions, this impression can be overcome. And in fact, an energy code assessment will not only help improve energy code compliance, but also may help raise compliance with other health and safety codes.

There are other ways to help increase compliance rates. In resources developed by IMT over the past three years, we’ve addressed many best practices, such as the use of third parties, streamlining compliance practices, design professional accountability, and compliance for renovation projects. IMT also launched the Standard Bearers Award, in 2012, as a way to recognize individual code officials, local jurisdictions, and states doing an excellent job at improving energy code compliance.

In order to demonstrate the energy savings potential from improved compliance, IMT has mapped out the potential savings for each state, and reported on the non-energy benefits of the energy code such as positive impacts on resilience, durability, and air quality.

We’re continuing to develop new tools as well. As part of the City Energy Project (CEP), a joint project of IMT and the Natural Resources Defense Council, IMT is now working on ways to scale energy code compliance improvement in cities. Among the resources under development is a new methodology that outlines how a quantitative and qualitative compliance assessment should be done in medium to large cities. A second resource will outline the steps cities should take to improve code compliance.

A methodology for cities to use in conducting energy code compliance assessments is crucial for ensuring consistency in the assessment approach and subsequent results. It’s important to focus compliance assessments and improvement initiatives at the city level because these offices have direct control over enforcement.

There is one more issue that must be addressed on the path ahead: Although there has been an increased focus on compliance over the past five years, the need for consistent funding is paramount to seeing wide-reaching compliance improvement and realizing the maximum energy savings that energy codes promise. The key to tapping long term, stable funding is to get utilities and public utility commissions to realize that significant energy savings are possible with improved energy code compliance.

The last eight years have brought about a number of opportunities to foster increased compliance rates. The strategies above should help to continue this drive in the years to come.

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Low-E Glass Lowers Utility Bills

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When the summer sun penetrates your windows, temperatures rise and so do utility bills. Choosing windows with low-E glass, however, reduces the cost of staying cool.

In hot climates, homeowners and building occupants need to know all their options for keeping cool air inside and hot air outside.

One option is installing windows with low-E (low-emissivity) glass. Emissivity describes how a window radiates the heat it absorbs and is one of the main ways heat is transferred.

Low-E glass can filter 40 to 70 percent of the heat that is normally transmitted through standard window glass. It works by reflecting heat back to its source.

Glazed with an ultra-thin metallic coating – thinner than a human hair – low-E glass filters out the infrared (heat) portion of the light spectrum while allowing the full amount of visible light to pass through. This spectrally-selective filtering reduces solar heat gain, decreasing the need for air conditioning and also reduces dependence on artificial lighting. Additionally, low-E glass filters out harmful ultraviolet rays, preventing fading to your carpet, furniture, and other valuables.

Think of low-E glass as you would a thermos. When cold liquid is stored inside, its silver lining repels heat from the outside. This constant reflection maintains the internal temperature. Additionally, the air space between the silver lining and the exterior of the thermos contributes to the insulating value of the lining – similar to an insulating glass unit.

Heat transfer in multi-layer glazing occurs through thermal radiation from a warm pane of glass to a cooler pane. When low-E glass faces the gap between the glass layers, it blocks a large portion of this radiant heat transfer, lowering total heat flow through the window.

When heat reduction is a priority, so the low-E coating should be on the number two surface. This is the inside-facing surface of the outside pane.

While windows with low-E glass generally cost 10 to 15 percent more than windows with standard glass, they can increase energy efficiency by 30 to 50 percent.  

Low-E coatings are usually applied during manufacturing, but there are also low-E window films available for do-it-yourselfers. These films are more economical alternative than replacing windows and will last for 10 to 15 years.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that 30 percent of the energy wasted in commercial buildings and 40 percent of the energy required for cooling homes can be attributed to inefficient windows.

Although opting for windows with low-E glass represents a greater initial investment, its many benefits pay you back over time. What’s more, improving energy efficiency in homes and buildings helps boost the economy, improves health, and protects the environment.

Contact Tom Herron at 240-821-9505 to learn more about the important role windows, doors, and skylights play in making homes and buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.

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Integrating Windows Maximizes Synergy

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, June 11, 2014

High-performance windows are an essential component in sustainable residential buildings. Maximizing their contribution, however, requires integrating them into the whole-building concept.

While this may appear obvious, it is often challenging to consider windows holistically despite their invaluable contribution to sustainability through enhanced synergy. Design teams that work independently rather than collaboratively, for instance, may inadvertently create problems instead of solving them. A ventilation system that uses windows improperly, for instance, can adversely influence indoor air quality by allowing outside contaminants inside. 

Overcoming this challenge requires keeping in mind that every residential building depends on a series of complex, interrelated systems to operate efficiently. Achieving sustainability, of course, requires integrating these systems and their subsystems.

By including windows in this process, design teams can minimize operating costs while creating a healthy indoor environment that keeps occupants satisfied. 

Contact Tom Herron at 240-821-9505 to learn more about the important role windows play in making homes and buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.

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Do You Have an Immediate Need To Show Commercial Fenestration Code Compliance?

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Friday, June 6, 2014
If you're currently involved with a commercial project and need to show that the windows meet energy performance codes, the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) can help.

Here's an overview of our commercial ratings program.

Contact Ray McGowan at 240-821-9510 to learn more.

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New Whiteboard Highlights Ease of NFRC's Commercial Ratings Program

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The National Fenestration Rating Council’s (NFRC) new whiteboard helps design professionals see how easy it is to meet fenestration energy code compliance on commercial projects.

Contact NFRC’s Senior Program Manager, Ray McGowan, at 240-821-9510 to use our commercial ratings program for your project.

View the video

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