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Energy-Efficient Windows Help Reduce Carbon Emissions, Study Finds

Posted By Adriana Vargas, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

By Michelle Blackston


Decarbonization to fight climate change can take many forms, from clean renewable energy like solar and wind, to more efficient or all-electric vehicles. A less discussed but important piece of the sustainability puzzle is windows. 


New research shows just how well energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights—referred to as fenestration products by industry professionals—can lower energy use and prevent additional pollution. Analyzing government data and state and city energy codes, researchers at the University of Florida found that energy-efficient fenestration products reduced energy use by 774 Gigawatt hours in the past 30 years. To put those savings into context, that’s the equivalent of reducing carbon emissions by 547 million metric tons, or one-year equivalent of electricity use by 70 million U.S. households or taking 118 million passenger cars off the road. 


These savings were made possible in part by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), formed in 1989 by industry stakeholders to establish an independent energy-efficiency ratings and certification process. NFRC became an official part of U.S. law and building codes with the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The law established NFRC as the official rating council for windows, doors, and skylights. That year, NFRC also partnered with ENERGY STAR to provide the science behind its residential windows certifications. 


Fast forward 30 years, and just like your cars MPG is measured, NFRC fair, accurate, and credible ratings help you understand how your certified windows will perform. Inefficient windows can cost the U.S. $50 billion annually in energy waste. NFRC’s mission is to continue to bring that number down by rating products on how well they keep heat out during the summer and prevent heat from escaping in the winter. This research highlights just how valuable that work can be to not only reduce costs for businesses and households, but also keep our air as clean as possible. 


These results are promising, but there is more work to do. Green building is in higher demand than ever. New York, D.C. and other cities are adopting stricter mandates to phase out the use of less-efficient glass in commercial construction. The full impact of those efforts will depend on the details and implementation, but NFRC has the data and science to help consumers and policymakers during this transition. 


In some regions, outdated windows need to be replaced. A recent study by the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) found that at least 63 percent of homes in the region are not ENERGY STAR certified. SEEA’s analysis found that Arkansas could save 29 billion BTUs, $13.2 million, and 112 megatons of carbon dioxide if it increased the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) compliance of windows over the next three decades. SHGC measures how well a window prevents heat from the sun from entering the home. If the SHGC is too high, homeowners tend to use more air conditioning to cool their home, which wastes energy and raises their utility bill in the process. 


Upfront costs prompt the use of cheaper, less effective fenestration products. Consumers need to know the tradeoffs and the long-term benefits such as energy savings and reduced pollution that the right windows can provide. Now data shows that those benefits easily outweigh the initial cost by reducing HVAC use and avoiding the damage of additional carbon emissions into the atmosphere. 

Tags:  carbon emissions  climate change  earth day  energy efficiency  energy performance 

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NFRC Promotes Environmentally Responsible Building on Earth Day, Everyday

Posted By Adriana Vargas, National Fenestration Rating Council, Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2020

By Jeremy Browning

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) strives to empower people to create better buildings, increasing public awareness of energy efficiency and environmental responsibility. As good stewards of the environment, NFRC donates to an environmental nonprofit in the location of our annual spring and fall meetings.  This spring, prior to the COVID-19 crisis, our meeting was scheduled to be held in College Park, Maryland. 

Even though the spring meeting was moved online, NFRC still made a cash donation to support the mission of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).  Since 1967, CBF has advocated to “Save the Bay” through environmental restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which is a 64,000 square-mile area that includes College Park and NFRC headquarters and stretches from Virginia to New York. CBF is dedicated to reducing pollution, improving water quality, educating the next generation of environmental stewards and creating a healthier environment for the 18 million people and 3,600 species of wildlife who call the region home.

In addition to the support of CBF, on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, NFRC will observe Earth Day, a day where the world unites to reduce the environmental impact of human activity.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the theme this year is climate action.

According to, climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world inhabitable.  The built environment accounts for more than 40 percent of energy use and 70 percent of electricity use.  NFRC is building a sustainable future through its commitment to the continuous improvements of windows, doors, and skylights that make buildings more comfortable and energy efficient.

In the last 30 years, since NFRC’s inception, energy-efficient fenestration industry products have reduced an estimated 547 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and saved 774 gigawatt hours of energy, equivalent to:

  •  About 118 million passenger cars NOT driven for one year
  •  One year of electricity use by about 70 million U.S. households
  •  The energy savings in one year from replacing about 7 trillion standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps
  •  About 455 million acres of pine or fir forests absorbing CO2 for one year


Learn more about NFRC’s sustainability efforts by visiting our new sustainability webpage or contacting our sustainability manager, Jeremy Browning, at

Tags:  earth day  sustainability 

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