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Even If The Builder Says They Are Energy Star Windows

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!

 

 

 

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


Comment balloon 51 commentsJay Markanich • July 24 2014 04:52AM

Comments

Good morning Jay,

I'm suggesting this post! You are so right on!! ALWAYS ALWAYS have a pre-drywall inspection..you are right..you don't know what you don't know!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799) about 4 years ago

Again the importance of a pre-drywall inspection is clearly demonstrated by your post.  Down here some folks like to say Hurricane windows when they are only wind resistant which is a different standard.

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) about 4 years ago

Good morning Jay,

It becomes a "gubment" problem in that someone thinks what is and isn't!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) about 4 years ago

Thanks Dorie.  The bull can fly far and fast somtimes.

Gary - things sometimes become generic.  And things are said to be what they aren't, especially when a fast one is being pulled.

People don't look things up for themselves Raymond.  And maybe they should learn to!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

When confronted by facts, obfuscate.

When in government, I learned how to write 20 pages without saying a word.

Consumerism today is not in that condition.

The ability to read between those meaningless lines is valuable. 

Of course, my question is as it always is, is where is the buyer's agent in this matter and what are they doing???

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 4 years ago

She had heard my explanation regarding the windows prior to the "explanation" by the supervisor, Lenn.  She knew what to expect.  Did the agent know any of this prior to my inspection?  I don't know.  For sure the buyer did not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

When the explanations start getting TOO long, my common sense gets involved automatically...from there, things will clear up or shut up

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) about 4 years ago

The Energy Star building program is a government certification and the use of those words are not to be used by just anyone. It shows a home is built to a higher standard than current code. There are several checklist items that have to be verified by a third party Energy Auditor which have to be submitted to the program for certification. Just buying windows or appliances with the certifications isn't even close. The Energy Star program is on version 3 currently and you either built the house to the standard or you didn't and if you did you would be paying for the certification.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) about 4 years ago

Richie - this guy danced and bobbed and weaved.  I really was surprised at what flies around!

Fer sher Rob.  Around here is it usually some RESNET guy doling out the certs.  And frankly, I'm not impressed.  I have found insulation in attics 5" deep that the RESNET guy certified as Energy Star, so I know they don't do what I do.  Good windows are great, but as you say, unless they are installed a certain way and are certified they are not Energy Star qualifying.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

The builder I represent, and many others here, were building to Energy Star standards and having the final testing and got each house certified.  Then he was told he only had to test a sample of homes to be allowed to certify ALL of them.. so he and other builders went that route.  When the requirements for Energy Star 3.0 were released, builders here determined that the cost of the requirements would far exceed what the market would bear, plus it would take years and years for the homeowner to recoup that cost if they did build to that standard.  Most builders in the Killeen area stopped seeking the Energy Star certifications because they did not see it as benefit to the buyer any more.  

Posted by Mary Ann Daniell Central Texas Realtor, Homes - Land - Small Acreage (Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC ) about 4 years ago

Jay, I'm bookmarking this one for sure. The Supervisor must be coached for quite a while to be able to address your questions--without answering your questions!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) about 4 years ago

Aside from window issue, how many other things had this builder lied about.  I don't mean to paint a wide brush here, but it's something I always worry about with builders.

Posted by Margaret Goss, Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate (Baird & Warner Real Estate) about 4 years ago

Wow Jay. What a way to beat around the bush and try to cover his ***. Contractors like that rely on people who won't think twice about what they tell them. 

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) about 4 years ago

Mary Ann - while all that may be true, these homes are advertised as meeting Energy Star standards, and so reads the contract.

Tom - he should know his stuff without coaching I think.  But still, honesty is the best policy.

Margaret - this guy did the Texas two step all throughout the walk through!  This is the only thing I am going to comment on though.

Suzanne - I'm not even sure there was a bush there!  But he did some beating around!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

There are many ways to be unclear in what is being offered in new construction... a pre-drywall inspection is great advice for buyers!

thank you for educating us!!

have a great day

Rob

Posted by Rob Thomas, Bristol TN-VA & Tri Cities Agent, ABR, GRI, e-Pro (Prestige Homes of The Tri Cities, Inc. CALL....423-341-6954) about 4 years ago

Any time Rob.  Glad you stopped by, again!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Jay, just another case of greewashing, very good article. 

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 AdrianWillanger-broker.com) about 4 years ago

Pretty good Adrian.  I find the new "green" thing to be watered down to the point it is not recognized any more.  To me it means "more money..."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Thanks for the blog, I like selling new construction so it's important to keep up with energy efficiency and ratings.

Posted by Sybil Campbell, REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia (Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia) about 4 years ago

You're welcome Sybil.  There is so much to keep up with!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Jay, nice post.  Another tangent to this is that the whole window energy efficiency question is just that---a question.  For example sometimes windows get used that are fine in your climate for example---where you want to keep the sun out, and aweful in our climate where we want to let the sun in---what we have of it.  There are actually situations where you can become deprived of adequate light because of the windows efficiency.  The whole business of keeping sun out, would be better served by appropriate overhangs in our climate.  Let the sun in in the winter---keep it out in the summer.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 4 years ago

Exactly Charlie.  That is where that interior low-e coating comes in handy.  They can do anything with it literally, including enhancing the window's ability to retain or eliminate heat.  It's interesting that skylights are not a part of the Energy Star efficiency thing.

Have you seen "The Supervisor Dance?"  It's a cross between the Texas Two-step, Waltz and a groovy boogaloo.  Bump and jive.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Lots of bumping and jiving for sure.  I was at a green build meeting last night and there was a guy there ready to go fisticuffs with me over the wonders of fiberglass and the evils of cellulose fiber --- always someone ready to jump out of the box and think outside the box

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 4 years ago

Did he point to the Green Partner label and tell you, "See, it's green!"

Pay no attention to the man behind the fiberglass.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

     "Green" for cars mean that you will be driving a teeny tiny death trap.  "Green" for toilets means that you will have to flush the toilet 2 or 3 times to get everything washed away.  "Green" for showers means that you can get a better shower standing in a light rain storm. "Green light bulbs"  means that you won't be able to see well enough to read.  Etc.  etc.

Posted by Fred Griffin, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) about 4 years ago

I used to do Energy Audits for free, as a service and part of my inspection Fred.  Now people pay me!  That's green!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Jay - most builders will not permit any inspections on behalf of the buyer.  They insist the town inspector has things covered.  When you go to the town, they make it clear, they are only looking for a few things and it is no where near a sufficient inspection.  

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) about 4 years ago

Jay,

Thank you for the informative blog. I feel like I just got a Phd on what really is an energy efficient window.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) about 4 years ago

I don't know any here who won't permit them Joan, but they try to make it more and more difficult.  Or they call at the last second and say you need an inspector now.

Thank you Sarah.  But really this is Window 101.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Lots of people assume a window is a window...good point ...disguising and confusing stickers don't help the consumer.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 4 years ago

Unfortunately one of the goals of advertising and marketing is to make things appear that are not, S&D.  People might see the Energy Star logo, for example, but not the small print beside it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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.

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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 ;)

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max Southern Realty) about 4 years ago

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.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 4 years ago

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!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Joan Cox, Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time (Metro Brokers - House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) about 4 years ago

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.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

Jay

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

Good luck and success.

Lou Ludwig

Posted by Lou Ludwig, Designations Earned CRB, CRS, CIPS, GRI, SRES, TRC (Ludwig & Associates) about 4 years ago

Thanks Lou.  Glad you enjoyed the presentation!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Inna Ivchenko, Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA (Barcode Properties) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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

Posted by Patricia Feager, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) about 4 years ago

I'm glad Patricia!

Here is another one:

http://activerain.com/blogsview/3539099/energy-star-qualified-in-highlighted-regions

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 4 years ago

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