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Energy Death Star

written by Chris Meiorin
for Fenestration Review Magazine

Let's say you went out last week and bought a new family vehicle. You did your homework. You poured over the NRCan (Natural Resources Canada) website. You studied the EnerGuide fuel and consumptions ratings. You made sure the vehicle you were about to purchase had the new, redesigned EnerGuide label, detailing everything from fuel consumption to annual fuel costs. Armed with this information, you strolled to your local dealer and made clear you had done your homework (via Google) and handed over the model you wished to purchase and the price you wished to pay (again, Google). You were pleased with the work you had put into this process and equally pleased you were doing your part to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Since the purchase, however, a few issues have presented themselves. You have a family of six, including the dog, and the new car only seats four. Let's say you are a weekend sporting enthusiast and sometime handyman, and your new car has no storage space for your gear and tools. A lot of your driving involves long highway trips, and you love to listen to music and podcasts, but, to lighten the vehicle, you couldn't get a radio or media player. In fact, not only is the car light, it’s kind of small and you are fairly certain you might die if ever hit by one of the large SUV’s dominating our roads. In short, it may not be the best vehicle for your needs, but gosh-darn-it, it sure does go far on a tank of super-high-octane low-sulfur gas. Interestingly enough, there was a message from vehicle manufacturer in the EnerGuide opening page. It suggested that there were many factors to consider when buying a new vehicle. Everything from utility, performance and lifestyle needs. Driving habits should also be taken into consideration. How you operate the vehicle and access to qualified service should also be considered. You did in fact notice this, but just assumed it was the manufacturer's attempt to sell you a car you didn’t really want or need.

This, it seems to me, is the experience most consumers will have when trying to use Energy Star as a guide to buying energy-efficient windows.

I am not a fan of Energy Star and its narrow and flawed focus pertaining to fenestration products. Nor am I alone in this thinking, as a full 44 per cent of those polled by the National Glass Association (38 per cent favoured, 18 per cent neutral) appear to feel the same about Energy Star and its current value to the consumer. I’ve made no secret about how I feel about this, and have voiced my opinion on this topic at various Energy Star stakeholders meetings with nothing more than a literal shoulder shrug in return. This has been an ongoing industry message directed toward NRCan, and although a recent presentation by Debbie Scharf (NRCan) at the 2017 Fenestration Canada AGM might suggest they are at least hearing this message, it is also very possible that the Energy Star program may be on its way out. This was first discussed by Jeff Baker, technical consultant for FenCan, as far back as the WinDoor 2017 seminars. Mr. Baker, as a side note to his presentation, suggested that with the (unlikely) election of then-president-elect Donald Trump, proposed funding cuts of almost one third to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would leave in jeopardy the Energy Star program under this banner. With Canada’s Energy Star program being aligned with that of the EPA in almost every aspect, it would leave in question the viability of the program here in Canada, and good riddance.

Net-Zero Energy HousingThe major flaw of the Energy Star program relating to windows and doors is the fact that value is based entirely on winter heating degree days. No value or concern is given to such issues as passive solar heat gain its effect on associated energy consumption relating to cooling. Nor has any consideration been given to the comfort of the occupants buying into the program, or the resulting aesthetics of a window that is forced to meet the ever-increasing demands of compliance to the program. This in itself is distressing as these new and proposed criteria would potentially reduce the available use of glazing as an architectural design feature, in its place allowing for not much more than a cookie-cutter-pick-list of conservatively sized windows. The renderings for the “new” Energy Star home have a remarkable resemblance to the socialist housing plans of communist Russia. But then again, this is Canada.

 

    written by Christopher Meiorin
    owner of EVW / not your typical window guy
    @294ryding

 

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