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Upgrades to FenStar Restore Confidence in Certification Program

As the sole certification body for the Energy Star Program for windows, doors, and skylights, the National Fenestration Rating Council has the task and mandate that all fenestration products are uniformly tested and rated and meet the certification requirements. NFRC has been rating products for more than 30 years, and consumers know the NFRC label outlines how that product will perform. However, some recent challenges threatened to erode that confidence.

At this point in 2020, NFRC’s FenStar Certification Program was behind on verification tests for Energy Star. Just over 10 percent of units were completed for 2020 and there were a significant number of outstanding tests from 2019. A lot has changed since then. NFRC restructured and added personnel, enacted changes to policies and procedures, and upgraded software. Each of these elements has improved the program.

Program Improvements

Our increased communication and outreach facilitated greater responsiveness, and support from labs and program participants helped us reach our goal to complete all outstanding tests for both 2019 and 2020 by March 1, 2021. This has given us a platform to continue these program improvements and ensure the integrity of the Energy Star Program for windows, doors and skylights.

Since then, 2021 has been a banner year for the FenStar program. Our successes have been numerous for verification test completions, thanks, again, to increased connection with participants and labs. Today, the verification testing is nearly 97 percent complete for all of 2021. And we’re on track to be done by mid-October.  

Our relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Energy Star Program, and with manufacturers has greatly improved due to the changes we’ve made and continue to make. We are more transparent in our communication that focus on program performance and education. This has fostered greater understanding and participation among all parties.

Additionally, we’ve strengthened our compliance requirements and procedures. Manufacturers that consistently send incorrect test units face more scrutiny. If they are continually unable to satisfy program requirements, then they will be required to send two units next year. We have also worked closely with the EPA to establish quicker compliance mechanisms and action for those manufacturers. When a potential failure or noncompliance is identified, we make sure the manufacturer knows in a clear and concise way in order to address it.

Even before a window, door or skylight product line is first selected to be tested, NFRC staff is involved. From the moment the notice goes out to the manufacturer to when the lab receives the unit, we are in contact with all parties until completion. When a unit has the potential to fail or not be in compliance, FenStar staff informs the EPA. While that adds a new level of complexity, this step ultimately speeds up responsiveness for the program and holds everyone accountable for the same requirements.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, EPA released a draft of its EnergyStar 7.0 specification that affects manufacturers and the way in which the Energy Star and FenStar programs work. The thermal performance requirements are being tightened across all Energy Star zones, with changes to the coverage in those zones. This is an attempt to improve the energy efficiency of fenestration products, drive down energy consumption for households in the U.S., and ensure the program is keeping up with technology, capabilities and market demand. 

This is also a trend we’re seeing internationally. Energy-efficiency programs remain a priority for the EPA and Department of Energy; their infrastructure plans focus on improved efficiencies in buildings for residential and commercial spaces.

Manufacturers that build products to meet these new Energy Star requirements will be better equipped to satisfy the growing demand for more energy-efficient homes and buildings.


Steve McDowell NFRC

Steve McDowell

Steve McDowell is the residential program manager for the National Fenestration Rating Council and oversees the FenStar Certification Program. Opinions expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Glass Association or Window + Door.