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.
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.