FTC Weighs In Regarding Energy Savings Claims by Window Companies

It looks like the time has come to pay the piper for over the top promises of savings from replacement windows. Last week the Federal Trade Commission settled with five window companies that have been making exagerated and unsubstantiated claims of energy savings regarding their products. According to Window & Door, "the cases are part of a broad FTC effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid scientific evidence, government officials state."

David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers buying replacement windows...The FTC is committed to making sure that the information consumers get is accurate and that marketers can back up the claims they make.”

The five companies in the settlement are Gorell Enterprises, Long Fence & Home, Serious Energy, THV Holdings and Winchester Industries. Among the boasts were promises of 40 to 50 percent energy savings, 8 year payback periods, many of which came with a money back guarantee.

In the FTC's press release announcing the settlement, specific terms were laid out, such as

Part I of the proposed settlements prohibits each company from claiming:

  • that consumers who replace their current windows with those of the company will achieve up to, or a specified amount or percentage of energy savings, or a reduction in their heating or cooling costs; or
  • that the company guarantees or pledges that consumers who replace their windows with the company's windows will achieve such energy savings;

unless the claim is non-misleading and when the company makes the claim, it has competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate that all or almost all consumers are likely to achieve the maximum savings claimed.

In addition, if the company claims or guarantees that consumers will achieve specific energy savings or reduced heating or cooling costs under certain circumstances (for example, by replacing a window made of a certain material in a specific region of the country), it must clearly and prominently disclose those circumstances near where the claim or guarantee is made. The company also must be able to substantiate that all or almost all consumers are likely to see the maximum savings claimed under those circumstances.

Part II of the proposed settlements prohibits each company from making claims:

  • that a specific number or percentage of consumers who replace their windows with the company's will achieve energy savings or reduced heating or cooling costs; or
  • about energy consumption, energy costs, heating and cooling costs, or other insulating properties or energy-related efficacy;

unless the representation is non-misleading and is substantiated by reliable scientific evidence.

 In conjunction with the settlement, the FTC issued a Shopping for Windows publication for consumers. It is designed to provide information that homeowners should take into account when considering replacement windows, including how to decipher NFRC window stickers.

- The FTC's press release of the settlement can be found here.

- Door & Window Manufacturer Magazine's write-up regarding the settlement can be found here.

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Comment by Ryan Schuchler on July 3, 2012 at 1:09pm

Adam, this is a very informative blog post. It's a shame that some of these companies have been taking advantage of their customers by essentially selling them lies. I am certainly grateful, however, that the FTC has decided to step in and establish some standards and boundaries as part of this settlement. I was also glad to learn that the US Department of Energy supports a computer simulation program called RESFEN, which is currently the most accurate way of estimating potential energy savings. A few replacement window companies, including Clear Choice USA of Cedar Rapids, IA have begun offering to run RESFEN reports for homeowners. I've attached a link that includes some additional information: Empty Energy Saving Promises. Thank you for the well-written and intriguing article!

Comment by Tom DelConte on March 14, 2012 at 6:18am
Comment by Jim Peck on March 9, 2012 at 5:25am

Long Overdue!

And, as Tom says, it's the installation that counts!

As my Grandpappy used to say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 6, 2012 at 6:25pm

I will say replacing the windows on my previous house made a huge comfort difference. The old windows were made in the 20's and had wood rot so they were due for replacement anyways. The sills and all the trim work got replaced with the window. DIY the windows were under $100 each, 9 windows in the house.

The replacement window companies often just replace the sashes in old windows leaving the uninsulated sill and casing untouched...

Comment by Tom DelConte on March 6, 2012 at 4:07pm

Matt: So much for Sears! It'd be great if your installer had a cert from the institute: http://www.awdi.com/ . They reinforce my point about proper installation and performance.

Comment by Matt Schwoegler on March 6, 2012 at 6:23am

Just received an e-mail from Sears with the subject line "Save on Electricity: Replace Your Windows".  The offer was to "Save $500...Request a FREE in-home estimate today"...it contained a link which took me here:

http://www.remodelinstantly.com/windows/index?utm_source=4&utm_...

FWIW... :>

Comment by Tom DelConte on February 29, 2012 at 5:10am

Hello Adam: thanks for posting this! Luckily these five companies involved were relative nobodies in the field of windows. Consumer Reports also reported on this timely issue, but not as well as you. They test windows every seven years, and the only thing for sure is that: when you go to market for windows, then you buy, then they come out with a new report! In general the big names like Andersen, Pella, Certainteed, plus Lowes and Homedepot store brands test the best. The real problem with windows is unless you get a real slow and careful installer, and overpay them, or do it yourself, you'll end up with perimeter energy leaks. Oh well. 

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