NFRC Ratings Explained

As you’re shopping for new replacement windows you may have heard of NFRC ratings.  It’s important to understand what these ratings are and what they mean about your new windows.  First of all NFRC stands for the National Fenestration Rating Council.  They’re based outside of Washington DC in Greenbelt Maryland.  They are the national body that sets the standards for replacement window ratings.

Just about all new windows and doors offered today are NFRC rated as they need to be in order to qualify for the Energy Star program.  The mice thing about NFRC ratings is that they are clear.  Every new window will come with an NFRC sticker which clearly displays the ratings for that individual window or door.  There is no room for salesperson trickery.

champion window prices
Despite claims of their salespeople and long heat lamp demonstrations, Champion windows have average efficiency ratings.

The NFRC stickers will look like the example above.  As you can see they display the U-Factor and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) on the top line and the Visible Transmittence (VT Rating) on the bottom left side.  These are the ratings that MUST be on each window.

On the bottom line this window from Champion Windows also shows the Condensation Resistance which is optional.  Some windows, like the Simonton window pictured below, will have a blank space in the lower right side.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it does indicate that they don’t want to advertise their rating.

Simonton Reflections 5500 window ratings
Simonton Reflections 5500 window ratings

Why are NFRC ratings important?

These ratings are important because they are solid.  They are not up for interpretation or subject to change at a moments notice.

We hear stories about salespeople with all sorts of bogus info.  We see R-Values getting thrown around and hear about promises made to customers that are just plain impossible.  The NFRC ratings provide a way to really evaluate what you’re actually getting to make sure it meets the promises you were made.

What should you do it the sticker does not match what you were told?

Whatever claims the company makes about the energy efficiency of their windows make sure to get them in writing.  Let them know you’ll be checking it agains the NFRC stickers.  If they match you’re doing great and if they don’t somebody has some explaining to do.

If you feel like you’re getting fishy numbers during the sales phase ask them for the real NFRC ratings.  If the ratings you get don’t match what you were previously told then you know they were being tricky with you.  If they were I would suggest you find another company.  There are plenty of fish in the sea as they say.

Hopefully you caught these shenanigans during the sales process.  If they’re not caught until the products are installed it will be harder to figure out a solution.

What if the windows do not come with NFRC stickers? 

This probably means that the company removed them prior to installation which is a huge red flag.  it may mean that they’re trying to hide something from you and there may be very little you can do about it at this point.

What’s the bottom line?

NFRC ratings are a great way to evaluate the differences between various window products.  We see customers struggling with these evaluations all the time.

In fact, just today I got a call from one of our reps who was out meeting with a customer.  The customer had asked our guy how thick the gap between the 2 panes of glass is.  Before we go answering that question it’s important for us to identify what the customer is actually asking.

Does the customer care if there is 1/2″ or 3″ of space in there?  Nope.  What they want is an energy efficient window and some other company probably told them that you need to have this much space or that much space in order to be efficient.  Of course the simple way to tell how efficient one window is compared to another is to look at the U-Factors on the NFRC sticker.  If one is lower than it’s better and if it’s higher than it’s worse.

Does the space in-between the glass make any difference?  Who cares.  Either the ratings are better or they’re not better.  The measurement of this dimension or that dimension don’t matter one bit.  This is how NFRC ratings make window shopping easier.

Find more info on replacement window ratings here and you can find the most comprehensive and detailed replacement window reviews on the internet right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

2015 Replacement Window Tax Credit

Perhaps the most common questions we get are about tax credits for replacement windows.  As we get towards the end of 2014 the big question on everyones mind is whether there will be a tax credit for replacement windows in 2015.  The answer right now is probably not, but it’s nothing to worry about.

best replacement windows of 2015

We know that’s not a very good answer, but it’s our government at work.  The latest update is that after the Democrats lost badly in the mid-term elections in 2014 they quickly moved to pass legislation before they lose control of the senate.  The initiatives they’re currently focusing on are tax credits related to ideas they support.  Energy efficient windows and doors are certainly something the Democrats can get behind.

Will the legislation pass before the Republicans take control of the senate in 2015?

Nobody knows.  What we do know is that last time tax credit legislation passed it was retroactive as long as folks purchased windows that met the current Energy Star guidelines.  Our best advice is to make sure the new windows you’re considering for your home meet the more stringent 2015 Energy Star guidelines.

This newer generation of windows is more efficient than the older 2014 models and they’ll save you money in the long run.  They will  also likely be included in any new tax credit legislation.

If there is a 2015 replacement window tax credit our best guess is that it will be retroactive to 2014 purchases and frankly by mid-November most windows purchased now will be installed in 2015 anyway.

We encourage you to go ahead with your window purchase and to make sure you’ll be getting windows that will qualify just in case there is a tax credit next year.  Any reputable company should be abel to tell you which windows will qualify and we have a post on the subject right here.

Have fun!

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Home Advisor vs Angie’s List

We get requests literally every day for recommendations for honest local window companies. While we have a pretty good amount of experience working all over the country we can’t recommend local companies in every area. We just don’t know who the best company is Tulsa is, but we know 2 great ways to find out.

If you’ve been reading through the site for a bit you’ve probably seen that we frequently recommend Angie’s List. We do think it’s a great way to get feedback from folks on the companies operating in your area.

Of course Angie’s List is a site that collected feedback from real customers.  On the site you can find info on the companies, detailed reviews from real customers all over your area.  They do charge a small membership fee .

We do know some folks just don’t want to pay to join a list like that. They want to find local window companies and they want to get a couple of free quotes.

Fortunately for you there is a company called Home Advisor that will put you in touch with screened and approved local contractors who will be happy to give you a free quote for your project.

Home Advisor verifies all of the licensing and insurance info of all of the contractors in their system so you can be sure you’re being connected with someone who is reputable in the area.

It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll likely be contacted by 3-4 companies regarding your project.  It’s our suggestion to talk to all of them, but to still be skeptical.  If they throw up any red flags, just move on to the next one.  If they tell you that need both the husband and the wife to be present, I’d move on to the next company.  If they sound helpful and like they know what they’re talking about I’d suggest scheduling a free quote to see what they have to offer.

It’s an easy way to get the ball rolling on your project and you can get started right here. Have fun!

R5 Windows Volume Purchase Program

You may have read about the R5 Volume Purchase Program that the US Department of Energy came out with several years ago.  The idea was to encourage the manufacture of R5 windows which would drive down the cost.

It was a decent idea, but it hasn’t produced much in the way of results.  In fact most windows that meet these ratings cost the same today as they did back then.  We’re not aware of any R5 window products on the market that have come down in price since this program was established.

Which windows qualify for this program?

The Department of Energy decided that any windows with a U-Facotr of 0.22 or lower would qualify.  Of course most if not all manufacturers already offer windows that meet this criteria.  About the only reason the costs of these windows are sometimes high is that the manufacturers price the most efficient options to provide the highest margins.

There is no manufacturing difficulty in producing a product like this and about everyone already does it.  Could any company sell these products for less?  Sure, but the Department of Energy is not likely going to be able to help.

Does this mean the R5 Windows Volume Purchase Program was a failure?

Not necessarily, but it certainly hasn’t been the success the DOE hoped for.  Most if not all window manufacturers offer windows that meet this criteria, but homeowners in the most of the country don’t pick them with much consistency.  For example, many (if not all) windows will need to go to triple pane glass to get that rating.  Triple pane glass costs about $100 additional per window.  If you have 10 windows in your house that would add about $1,000 to a typical project.

Will you get much benefit from windows like this vs typical Energy Star rated windows?

Probably not.  If you live in a harsh climate the impact of the more efficient windows will be greater.  If you’re in Maine or Minnesota you may want to consider this option, but if you’re in the more temperate parts of the country the savings will be much smaller.

That isn’t to say triple pane windows are always a bad deal.  If you’re going to be in the home for a while and are looking for the most efficient option they can represent a great value.  The bang for the buck gets smaller as the windows get more efficient so just keep in mind that the increase in cost will be greater than the increase in efficiency.

You can find more info on replacement window ratings here and you’ll find the best replacement window reviews online right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Replacement Window U-Factor vs R-Value

Shopping for replacement windows can be a bit daunting and even comparing replacement window ratings can be much more difficult than you might expect.  Why is this?  Because companies don’t want you to make sense of it.  The companies that offer the “best windows ever produced by mankind” know full well that their windows aren’t really any better than other windows offered by hundreds of other local companies.

How then can you sort through all of the nonsense to get to the real info?  First you need to understand the ratings.  U-Factor and R-Value are common ratings used to measure efficiency.  You may be familiar with R-Values as they’re used in insulation.

Simply put the U-Factor is the inverse of the R-Value.  For example a windows is an R-4 then the U-Factor is 1/4 or 0.25.  Of course if it were that easy everyone would understand it and there would be no need for this post.

Here’s a little history.  Back in the day (say before 2008) windows were commonly sold based on R-Values.  These are nice round numbers that are easy for consumers to understand.  A very common sales pitch included prices for windows with an R-4, R-7 and R-10.  The higher the R-Value the better so the R-10 cost the most and the R-4 cost the least.  That pitch was very effective due to it’s simplicity.  It was easy to teach the salesperson and it was easy for the customer to digest.  The problem was that it wasn’t very accurate.

In 2008 the federal government came out with expanded tax credits for replacement windows that were based on specific U-Factors and SHGC ratings.  Intently the R4-7-10 pitch went out the window as folks were now concerned with the 0.30 U-Factor required to qualify for tax savings.

Why did the feds base the tax credits on U-Factors?  

We know a lot of things the government does don’t make much sense, but this one did.  U-Factors as determined by the National Fenestration Ratings Council (NFRC) are a measure of the entire window.  They take into account the frame, the glass, any additional options and they provide a clear measure of the effectiveness of the product.  This is why the U-Factor remains the best measure of efficiency of a window long after the federal tax credits have gone away.

Why do some companies still use R-Values?  

Because they don’t want to offer you an easy comparison.  R-Values as given out by window salespeople are often measures of just the center of the glass of the window.  This is the most efficient part of any window as it doesn’t take into account any spacers or frames or other parts.  Of course you’re buying an entire window not just the glass.  Looking at just the glass measurements doesn’t do you any good.

We routinely see companies advertising R-10 windows as being special which is just silly.  To accurately describe this an R-10 window would have a U-Factor of 1/10 or 0.10.  Do these windows have U-Facotrs of 0.10?  They do not.  Why don’t the numbers add up?  Because they company was trying to be tricky with the ratings.

So know you know that just about any window company offering R-Values is not being clear about the ratings, it’s important to remember that the Department of Energy put out an R5 volume purchase program a few years back.  The ratings in this case were accurate.  This was setup to drive down the costs of windows that exceeded the previous standards.  It hasn’t been much of a success just yet, and we’ll have another post on the subject.

So how do you sort through all of this to find a great deal?

The easy way is to look at the NFRC ratings for the products you’re considering.  Don’t take some R-Value from the salesperson.  Just ask them for the real NFRC ratings and don’t take any excuses as to why the company can’t or won’t provide them.

Once you have that, you’ll be able to compare the options directly and you’ll be on your way to cutting through all of the clutter to find yourself a great deal.

You can find more info on replacement window ratings here and you can find detailed replacement reviews here.

Have fun!

The Large Order Discount and Other Tricks

This one made us chuckle.  It’s a combination of the “you’re getting a special deal” and the “you need to order right now to save”.  That combination is a bit of a work of art in the sales business and can be a pretty deadly combination.  We wouldn’t be surprised if this one was more successful than we know.  Here’s how it works:

You’re getting a free quote to replace the windows in your home.  When the salesperson is presenting the prices and going through all of the discounts and promotions you tell him you want to get a couple of quotes to compare.

Of course he knows that if you get other quotes you’ll see that his “special” deal is not very good at all.  What does he do?  He’ll tell you that another customer of his just placed a very large order.  Maybe it was 200 windows for an apartment building.  It just so happens that they will be placing that order tomorrow and if you act now he can put your windows on that same order which will qualify you for a volume discount.  You’ll get pricing as if you ordered 200+ windows, but you’re really only ordering 10 windows.  That sounds like a pretty fantastic deal right?  Except it’s completely not true.

Years ago I worked in one of the largest replacement window plants on the east coast.  We produced around 4,000 replacement windows per day.  That’s 20,000 windows per week, 80,000 windows per month, you get the idea.  Based on that scale, even if there really was another order from this local company (which there certainly isn’t), the plant doesn’t offer a volume discount.  Even if the plant did offer a volume discount it would be something like $10 per window, or $100 total for your 10 window project.

Once you get an idea of the scale involved in manufacturing this trick seems sillier and sillier, but most folks have no idea.

The thought of getting your windows at a special discount just because you had the good fortune to get a quote on the same day as they were going to enter a large order is just too much for some folks to resist.  Of course the discount offered is likely thousands of dollars which is necessary to get you to make a rash decision.

You can be sure that the salespeople sign up customers using this tactic all the time.  They then meet up with each other a joke about the sales they made that day.  You don’t want to be one of the people they’re joking about.

Find more info on replacement window sales tactics here and you can find our thoughts on using Angie’s List to find a reputable local contractor right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Replacement Window Trade-In Program

If you’ve been shopping for replacement windows you may have seen this ad running in your town.  “Trade in your old windows and SAVE!”

I may not have told you much about my background, but I did sell cars in college and I think that’s an experience anyone who wants to work in business should have.  You learn more about people in 6 months on a car lot than you will doing about anything else.  This replacement window promo always reminds me of the old days selling cars in Lafayette, IN.

I guess it works because the idea of trading something in sounds a little nicer that throwing it out.  It really does sound nicer.  You wouldn’t throw out your old car, you trade it in for a nicer model.  It’s pretty easy to see what happens to your old car after you traded it in.  Just swing by the dealers lot a week later and you’ll see it looking all shine with balloons ties to it and a SALE sign in the windshield.

What happens to your old windows after you’ve traded them in?  They go to the dump.  It is completely impossible to reuse them for anything other than an art project and it’s pretty darn tough to recycle them (although we have an upcoming post on recycling building products). You can be sure they’ll never be used as windows again.

Why then do companies pay thousands of dollars to run ads referring to a window trade-in program?  Generally it’s because the window business is pretty competitive and they’re looking for a way to attract your attention.  Does that make them bad companies, no.  This one is a little different than some of the other window sales tactics we’ve outlined.

It sure does make their ads silly and it might make them deceptive if they’re telling you that your old windows really are going somewhere other than the trash heap.

Some lucky highschooler might be thrilled to drive your old car, but there is nobody who wants your junky old windows.

Learn more about replacement window sales tricks here and find our in-depth reviews of all major replacement windows right here.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.

Buy 2 Get 1 Free Replacement Window Sale!

We see ads like this running all over the country.  Sometimes it’s a buy 2 get 1, sometimes it’s buy 3 get 1 or even buy 5 get 1.  Maybe some discount levels seem more plausible to folks which is why they would vary the amount.  While that would be an interesting psychology experiment, it’s a silly way to shop for replacement windows.

If you remember anything from this site, remember that nothing in the window business changes every day or every week or every month.  If the company charges prices that are high enough to allow them to run a buy 2 get 1 free sale then they were charging people way too much before that sale started.  Do you want to work with a company that charges folks way more than they need to?  I hope not.

Ads like this are designed to instill a sense of urgency.  To reinforce the idea that you’d better buy now or you’ll miss the boat on this great deal.  We know you’ll see ads like this for shoes or pizzas, but replacement windows are a different animal.  Notice the great pizza ad at the top of the page, makes me hungry.

Consider that you’ll buy windows for your home once.  They’ll likely last 30 years or more and the typical contract price will be $7,000 or so.  That makes windows different than a pizza.  The proprietor of the local pizza shop may offer a real sale that will eat into his profits on the order because he knows you’ll be impressed with his work and you’ll come back for more.

If the window company does a great job your windows will be done and you won’t be coming back for any more.  Sure you may tell your friends or you may order something else in the future, but if you do you’ll just tell them about the great sale and they’ll never buy at full price.

Here’s how this really works.  Many window companies will operate on hugely inflated starting prices.  They call these list prices.  For a typical vinyl window they’ll tell you the list price is around $1,200 – $1,500.  Then when they come to give you your quote they’ll say, “sure if you buy 2 at list price you get one free.”

We’ll do the math for you.  That’s 2 windows at $1,200 each so $2,400 and they’ll give you another free.  They’ll be installing 3 windows for $2,400 or $800 per window.  That’s a horrible deal.

All of the sudden your fantastic savings has turned into a pretty bad deal, but they’re not done.  You’ll soon hear about their appointment saver discounts or time management discounts which are designed to push you into signing up on the spot.  Now if you don’t buy today you’ll lose the appointment saver discount and the buy 2 get 1 free sale ends tomorrow.  You wouldn’t want to let those savings get away would you?

C’mon, this is one of the silliest tricks in the book, but companies use it every day.  We know, you’re probably saying. “oh I would never fall for that”.  We know, everyone says that, but these companies do millions of dollars in business every year.  Someone is falling for it every single day.  Don’t let it be you!

You can find more info on replacement window sales scams and our in-depth reviews of replacement windows here.

If you have a copy of an ad showing a discount like this we’d appreciate it if you can send it over.  We’ll be posting them as example for folks.

Have fun!

Time Management Discounts

We have to say this is one of the silliest names for a sales tactic we’ve ever heard.  About a month ago our company participated in a home and garden show in Richmond, VA.  After the shows we typically have around 100 appointments with potential customers looking for quotes to replace their windows or doors.

Interestingly, all of the folks who come to a show to get info on windows end up getting quotes from a few companies who were at the show so we end up competing with the same companies over and over again for about two weeks.

As is typical we found about 90% of the folks we met with ended up working with us, but with these customers we heard a new one.  we repeatedly had folks asking us if we had a time management discount.  We’d never heard that one before, but it turns out it’s another way to phrase the old “appointment saver” discount.

Remember that companies will always be looking for a reasonable sounding way to convince you to sign up on the spot without comparing their options.  Companies that operate this way know full well that they’re not offering a great deal relative to their competitors.  If they said, “please buy from me without exploring your options because I need to pay my bills and if you shop around you’ll figure out this is a bad deal and you won’t give me your money. If you do that I won’t make any money, so please just buy from me right now without thinking it over.”

Of course, that’s not a convincing sales pitch, so they justify in any way they can.  In this case they’re telling folks that if they need to meet with you to give you a quote, then meet with you again later to sign up the paperwork they’ll lose a lot of money by making two visits.  Of course this explains the very practical reason they need to offer a time management discount.  Ha!

The business person in me would quickly respond with all sorts of info about bottle necks and constraints, but the simplest answer is this is just a bunch of junk.  They have plenty of time in the day to meet with you.

If you hear about time management discounts, do your self a favor and cancel the appointment.  If you area  gluten for punishment go ahead with it and post your experiences here.

In the meantime you can find more info on tricky sales tactics here and you can find our thoughts on using Angie’s List to find a more reputable local contractor.

Have fun!

If you’re looking for a window company right now, the best advice we have is to join Angie’s List.  For just a couple bucks you can get a 1-month membership and it’ll be worth much more than a caramel macchiato in the long run.  You can find the best pricing for Angie’s List on the internet right here

If you’re already a member of Angie’s List or if you’re just not going to join (despite my ringing endorsement), you can find our suggestions for the best companies in your area right here.