FTC Warns Window Manufacturers About Unsubstantiated Energy Efficiency Claims

RTA_Blog_2012_1009_FTCLast week, we encouraged you to be wary about the energy efficiency claims of window companies. The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has been actively engaged in this issue so we’re following up on last week’s post with a synopsis of the FTC’s actions to protect consumers.

In February 2012, the FTC settled with five window companies it alleged engaged in “deceptive practices” that mislead consumers. The press release for the settlement includes a list of the five companies and their practices – which include claims of potential energy savings in excess of fifty percent.

As consumers, we all have to be careful to discover the details of any energy saving claims. If the test conditions used to substantiate the energy savings claims aren’t the same as the conditions in which you’re installing the windows, you probably won’t realize the advertised energy savings. If the window company exaggerates the energy savings, no amount of diligence will help. In the case of the five companies who settled, the FTC has alleged each of them had no basis for the energy saving claims they made.

Even relatively inexpensive windows usually cost hundreds of dollars per window. Replacing all your windows can be a significant expense. Companies making unsubstantiated claims for energy savings effectively lead consumers to expect a monthly savings that would help offset the cost of the windows.

The FTC has created a free message about purchasing windows. You can also find a “home window buying guide” on the Consumer Reports website. We think you should consult a design professional or qualified green building consultant to figure out what windows will work with your existing or planned exterior wall. An energy audit or modeling of your home’s exterior wall will help you get an appropriate window for your project. Don’t look at the windows out of context!

Despite the FTC’s settlement with five window companies in February, some window companies didn’t change their sales and marketing materials. In August of 2012, the FTC issued warnings to fifteen more window companies about backing their sales and marketing claims with scientific evidence. Buyers should beware and find a qualified professional to serve as an advocate during the decision making process.

Photo by John Taylor used under a creative commons license.

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