Consumer Alert!
Deceptive Energy and Cost Savings

Equivalent or System R-Value Claims Being Marketed in Nebraska May Not Meet the R-value Requirements of the Nebraska Energy Code

The Nebraska Energy Code (Code) requires that the construction of all new buildings, additions and substantial building remodels meet the minimum requirements of the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). The IECC establishes minimum efficiency requirements for the “energy using” systems within a building such as mechanical system efficiencies, water heating system controls, lighting wattage limitations and ductwork sealant and insulation requirements. It also requires buildings to have a minimum level of insulation throughout the building envelope (e.g. ceilings, walls, floors, basement walls, crawlspace walls, etc.) or any part of the building that separates conditioned space from unconditioned space. The building envelope R-value requirements vary depending on how the building is used and the type of construction materials being used.

The recent updates of the Code, increases in energy costs and more energy conscious home buyers have challenged the members of the state’s construction industry to re-evaluate their past construction practices and energy efficiency strategies. Unfortunately, these new energy concerns sometimes result in marketing strategies for insulating products that include enhanced R-values, often referred to as Equivalent or System R-Values, and quite often these enhanced R-value claims conflict with the verification and enforcement requirements of the IECC.

Two insulation products, manufactured by two separate manufacturers, are currently using marketing strategies with Nebraska’s builders, building material suppliers and building owners that are creating just such a conflict.

Foil-Faced Polystyrene Insulation line Spray Foam Insulation

The first product is a foil-faced polystyrene insulation whose marketers are making claims of an R-Value of 27 or 28 per inch. Their System R-value claim involves crediting their insulation product with the additional insulative values of the other products used in the construction of the wall, ceiling or floor “system” such as gypsum board, sheathing, siding, weather barriers and “dead air space.” It also gives substantial R-value credit for the product’s reflective properties. Product advertising states that the product “reflects up to 97% of radiant heat.”

Distributors and marketers of a foil-faced polystyrene insulation product, met with Nebraska Energy Office staff regarding the marketing of their product within the state, and what product R-values would be acceptable in showing compliance with the R-value requirements of the IECC. It was determined that acceptable R-value claims for the P2000 residential insulation applications are:

3/8” EPS (expanded polystyrene) foil faced board = R-1.45
5/8” EPS (expanded polystyrene) foil faced board = R-2.42
1” EPS (expanded polystyrene) foil faced board = R-3.87

The determination, and future determinations for similar products, is based on the requirements of Federal Regulation 16 CFR 460 “The R-value Rule” and Section 102.5.1 of the IECC.

Section 460.5 (d) of the Federal Regulation 16 CFR 460 “R-value Rule” states:
For insulation materials with foil facings, you must test the R-value of the material alone (excluding any air spaces) under the methods listed earlier in the section. Or you can also determine the R-value of the material in conjunction with an air space by using one of two methods:

  1. Test the system, with its air space, under ASTM C 236-89 (Reapproved 1993) or ASTM C 976-90, which are incorporated by reference in a previous paragraph of the section. If you do this, you must follow the rules in the paragraph on temperature, aging and settled density.
  2. Add up the tested R-value of the material and the R-value of the air space. Determine the R-value for the air space based on previously stated rules.

Although the p2000 marketing materials do provide reference to some ASTM tests being completed – the completed tests are not the appropriate tests required under the R-values regulations of the Federal Trade Commission regulations. Future product determinations of this or other foil-faced polystyrene insulation products will similarly require appropriate ASTM testing verification.

Section 102.5.1 of the IECC requires:
“A thermal resistance (R) identification mark shall be applied by the manufacturer to each piece of building envelope insulation 12 inches or greater in width.
Alternatively, the insulation installer shall provide a signed and dated certification for the insulation installed in each element of the building envelope…”

The section alternative is most commonly used for roof/ceiling blown-in insulation applications with code enforcement jurisdictions, including the Energy Office, accepting a signed and dated certification of the systems thermal resistance (R) value from the installing insulation contractor.
Based on the lack of appropriate ASTM testing information, per the requirements of the “R-value Rule”, the Energy Office has determined that this is not an acceptable alternative to verify the R-value for this product.

The second product is a spray foam insulation product that markets the concept that “the most important job of insulation should be to control air leakage.” The manufacturer’s advertising discusses Equivalent R-values and promotes the idea that insulation should be able to control airflow and condensation and should not be evaluated solely on the R-value that the insulating product provides.

The Energy Office analysis and determination of an acceptable R-value claim for these products are similar to the previous determination for foil-faced polystyrene insulation. The Federal Regulation 16 CFR 460 “The R-value Rule” and Section 102.5.1 of the IECC both still apply. Although tested R-values will vary, as a rule-of-thumb a typical low density, spray foam insulation should have an R-value of approximately 3.6 per inch and a typical high density, spray foam insulation should have an R-value of approximately 7 per inch. Enhanced R-value claims would need to be verified for local code jurisdictions with appropriate ASTM testing data.

How Radiant Barriers Can Impact Your Home's Energy Use

With ever increasing energy costs, Nebraska home owners are continuously looking for ways to reduce their monthly heating and cooling costs.  That heightened interest has resulted in frequent questions regarding the benefits, impact and use of radiant barriers in Nebraska.

Radiant barriers consist of a thin layer of a highly reflective material, usually aluminum, applied to one or both sides of another material that provides strength and durability. These other materials include kraft paper, plastic films, cardboard, plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing and air infiltration barrier material.   On a sunny summer day, solar energy is absorbed by the roof, heating the roof sheathing and causing the underside of the sheathing and the roof framing to become hot. These surfaces then radiate heat downward toward the attic floor.  Radiant barriers reduce that energy flow. Since the amount of heat radiation striking the top of the insulation is less than it would have been, the insulation surface temperature is lower and the heat flow through the insulation is reduced. By reducing the energy reaching the attic floor, radiant barriers also reduce the attic air temperature.

The amount of energy exchanged between the roof deck and the attic floor depends on two factors.

Energy exchange is greatest when the temperature difference is high, when the emittance is high and when the reflectivity is low. The underside of a roof deck made of wood will typically have a high emittance. When that wooden surface is covered by a radiant barrier with a much lower emittance, the thermal radiation is reduced. When a radiant barrier with a high reflectivity is placed on top of the attic floor insulation, much of the heat radiated from the hot roof is reflected back toward the roof.

Confusion regarding the effectiveness of these barriers in Nebraska is heightened by distributors and marketers making claims that homeowners can save from 17 percent to 40 percent of their energy cost and/or consumption.  In some cases home owners are provided with Energy Saving Guarantees that support the savings claims.

In general in Nebraska, energy savings associated with radiant barriers is fairly limited.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oakridge National Laboratory (ORNL) provides the following information in a Radiant Barrier Fact Sheet on their website:

 
ORNL also discusses in their fact sheet that attics are complex systems where many components work together to maintain comfortable (and dry!) indoor conditions.  To increase your savings you need to consider the entire attic system.


ORNL’s calculations for first year savings for a 1,540 square foot attic for several combinations of attic improvements: adding a radiant barrier, reducing duct energy losses and upgrading insulation from R19 to code levels for Nebraska’s weather zone (Zone 5) showed the following energy cost savings per square foot:

First Year Savings for Homes with Insulated Ductwork in the Attic/Square Foot

 

Insulated and well-sealed ducts No ducts
R19 Attic Insulation Code insulation, R19 Attic Insulation Code-level Attic Insulation
Zone Add RB, add insulation Add RB Add RB Add RB, add insulation Add RB Add RB
5 $0.10 $0.01 $0.01 $0.07 $0.00 $0.00

For homes with Uninsulated Ductwork in the Attic

 

R19 Attic Insulation Code-level Attic Insulation
Zone Add RB, improve ducts, add insulation Add RB, improve ducts Add RB, add insulation Add RB Add RB, improve ducts Add RB
5 $0.75 $0.66 $0.18 $0.04 $0.59 $0.03

The first year’s energy cost savings associated with only installing a radiant barrier varies from $0.00 to $0.03 per square foot.  For the typical 1,540 square foot attic the first year’s savings would vary from $0.00 to $61.60.

Selecting your best options and approach to saving energy loss through your homes attic depends on your house’s configuration, physical attic constraints and your budget. If you already have a higher level of insulation in your attic (R-38 or more in the middle and northern climates), then adding attic insulation would not be your first choice. If your ducts are not in the attic, or if they are already well sealed and insulated then improving the ductwork will not be an effective choice. But in any case, addressing and improving the whole attic as a system will give you the greatest savings.

If you determine that a radiant barrier is appropriate for your attic, make sure that the product you install has an appropriate permeability rating to allow any moisture to “travel” through the barrier into the attic where it can be vented out of the home.  In Nebraska, barriers are often laid atop the existing attic insulation, with the reflective side up. Although this is the simplest installation method, there are several disadvantages:

 


Window Marketers Settle FTC Charges That They Made Deceptive Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings Claims
Companies Must Have Scientific Evidence Before Making Marketing Claims

February 22, 2012
Five companies that sell replacement windows in numerous states will have to stop making exaggerated and unsupported claims about the energy efficiency of their windows, and how much money consumers could save on their heating and cooling bills by having them installed, under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission. The settlements prohibit the companies from making these types of deceptive claims.

"Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers buying replacement windows," said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "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 cases are part of a broad FTC effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid scientific evidence. Also today, the agency issued a new consumer education publication called "Shopping for New Windows," which provides information on factors that affect the energy savings replacement windows are likely to provide; things to consider when shopping for new windows, such as cost, material, style, and installation; and how an energy performance rating label can help consumers choose the windows that are best for their specific needs.

The FTC's complaints allege the five companies engaged in deceptive practices by making unsupported energy efficiency and money-savings claims – in some cases, that consumers could cut their energy bills in half by using replacement windows alone. The companies named in the settlements are: Gorell Enterprises, Inc.; Long Fence & Home, LLLP; Serious Energy, Inc.; THV Holdings LLC; and Winchester Industries.

Gorell Enterprises, Inc.  Based in Pennsylvania, Gorell also operates under the names Gorell Windows & Doors and American Conservatory Systems. It manufactures windows with the "Thermal Master III" glass system and other lines. The company's "40% Energy Savings Pledge" promised consumers savings of at least 40 percent of home fuel consumption for both heating and cooling in the first year after their windows were installed, or they would repay them the difference, up to $500. According to the FTC's Complaint, Gorell lacked a reasonable basis for claiming that consumers who replace their windows with Thermal Master III windows were likely to achieve residential energy savings of 40 percent or save 40 percent on home heating and cooling costs.

Long Fence & Home, LLLP.  Based in Maryland, Long Fence & Home does business under a number of names, including Long Windows. It distributes and installs Serious Energy's Quantum 2 windows with SuperPak glass, among other lines. Long's advertisements in various media have included claims such as "50% Energy Savings Guaranteed," and "save 50% on Energy Bills – or LONG PAYS YOU!" Long also pledged 50% savings on heating and cooling energy usage. Long's website included a "savings calculator" that invited users to enter their average monthly energy bills and click a button to "CALCULATE SAVINGS." According to the FTC, Long's savings claims for the advertised windows were unsubstantiated.

Serious Energy, Inc.  Based in California, Serious Energy provides its dealers with marketing materials, including brochures and other information on its website. These materials have included claims such as, "Guaranteed to reduce your heating and cooling use by up to 49%." Serious Energy also offered heating and cooling reduction pledges, varying by dealer, and promised consumers would be paid up to $500 if they did not realize these savings within one year of when the windows were installed. The FTC alleged that Serious Energy's savings claims for the advertised windows were unsubstantiated.

THV Holdings LLC.  Based in Kentucky, THV's telemarketing sales scripts represented that its replacement windows will "cut energy bills in half"; that homeowners will typically see a 35 to 55 percent reduction in monthly energy bills; that "our homeowners have noticed that our windows saved them 35% to 55% off their energy bills," and pledged that its windows systems "will pay for themselves in energy savings alone in 8 years or we will pay the difference . . . our windows are free!!" The FTC charged that THV disseminated the claims in sales scripts for the company's THV Compozit windows with Alter-Lite triple pane glass. The FTC also charged that THV lacked a reasonable basis for its savings claims.

Winchester Industries.  Based in Pennsylvania, Winchester manufactures Bristol and WinterLock Super Triple-E, A-Plus with Alpha-10 windows. In its promotional materials, Winchester claimed that consumers would "reduce energy costs by 47%" and that "the triple-paned design of some replacement windows, such as Bristol windows, can also produce energy savings of up to 50% a year." Winchester's consumer testimonials claimed similar results, and the company pledged a heating and cooling reduction of at least 47 percent. The FTC charged that Winchester lacked a reasonable basis for making its energy savings claims for its windows.

The proposed orders settling the FTC's charges against the five companies are designed to prevent the companies from engaging in similar deceptive marketing practices in the future.

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

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

As noted above, the proposed orders require each company to substantiate savings claims that include the words "up to" – for example, if they claim consumers will save "up to" a certain amount of money, or achieve energy savings "up to" a certain amount, it must have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate that all or almost all consumers are likely to achieve the maximum savings claimed.

The proposed orders with Serious Energy, Gorell, THV, and Winchester include an additional provision designed to make sure they do not give misleading information to their distributors that could be passed on to consumers. The proposed order with THV also requires it to conduct a training program to help principals, officers, managers, employees, and representatives avoid misleading claims. The other four firms are required to broadly distribute copies of the order within each company to help ensure their employees' compliance.

The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaints and accept the consent agreement packages containing the proposed consent orders for public comment was 3-0, with Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch abstaining, in each case. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement packages in the Federal Register shortly. The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through March 23, 2012, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent orders final. The FTC acknowledges the valuable assistance of the Washington State Attorney General's Office in the investigation of this matter.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC's online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC's website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

STAFF CONTACTS:
James A. Kohm
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2640

Joshua S. Millard
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2454


Shopping for New Windows?

If you’re thinking about replacing the windows in your home, you’ve got lots of options. The choices you make about styles, materials and insulation can impact maintenance and energy costs for years. When you’ve found the window you like, take a look at its energy label to see how it compares to other windows.

Will New Windows Save You Money?
Sometimes companies that sell replacement windows exaggerate how much money people might save on their heating and cooling bills when new windows are installed. The truth is the money you could save depends on several factors: Of course, when deciding whether new windows will save you money, it’s important to consider the upfront costs. The price per window can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the materials and features you choose and cost of installation.

Window Options
The choices you make about materials, style, glazing, and installation could have a big impact on your energy bill. And some features, like how easy they are to take care of, make windows more appealing for other reasons.

Materials
Different window frame materials can affect the appearance, durability, and insulation of your window. For example, wood-framed windows provide good insulation, but are heavy and high-maintenance. Vinyl-frame windows insulate well, and don’t need painting.

Style
The style of a window can affect how well your window insulates. Single-hung, double-hung, and sliding windows leak more air than casement, awning, and hopper windows.

Glazing and Glass Technologies
Certain window glazes and glass may provide better insulation, light quality, and condensation resistance. For example, windows with low-emissivity (low-e) coatings often are more energy efficient than windows without.

Cleaning and Maintenance
Some materials and features, like tilt-in sashes, make windows easier to care for.

Installation
If your windows are not installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you might not get the savings or comfort you expect.

Check the Label
Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council’s window label when you shop. It can help you compare how well a window blocks cold, heat, and outside air; allows light in; and blocks condensation.

These ratings measure how well a window blocks cold, heat and outside air: Where Do I Learn More?
For more information, visit energysavers.gov and efficientwindows.org.