Window manufacturers’ political interests in 2013 will remain focused on two major issues, including establishing an effective and permanent incentive for the installation of energy-efficient windows, and reducing the impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead paint rule on the remodeling market. Window sales are expected to increase modestly in 2013 as manufacturers address these issues and the housing market continues its slow but steady improvement seen in the latter half of 2012.
Executives from the two major window manufacturer associations who spoke to Residential Building Product News stopped short of predicting 2013 housing and window market performance, saying only that modest improvement is anticipated. This is, of course, assuming the country’s employment situation gets better, tax credits improve, and tax hikes are avoided or kept at a minimum, say executives of the Window & Door Manufacturers Association, Washington, D.C., and the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, Schaumburg, Ill.
Rich Walker, president and CEO, AAMA, expects final 2012 market numbers to reach middle single-digit improvement compared to 2011. “While remodeling has remained strong during the downturn, window sales in some cases have been negatively impacted by the lead rule. For example, in the Northeast, where many older homes contain lead paint, business has been reduced by up to 30 percent,” he says.
A large portion of window sales have been in the remodeling and replacement in recent years, which has been keeping the construction market afloat, adds Jeff Lowinski, vice president, technical services, WDMA. “People are staying in their homes and replacing windows, but, we’re starting to see a drop off in that market. People interested in replacing windows have already done so. Now, the question remains as to how many people are left that will remodel their home, or will they tend to live with what they have,” Lowinski says.
If home construction picks up, as it is expected to, a window shortage is not likely, Lowinski says, adding that the only supply problems might be in local markets. “For example, in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, where whatever stock that existed has been destroyed and there’s big demand for replacement product, there could be supply issues. Overall, though, there’s still plenty of capacity in the market. Manufacturers that have survived are poised and ready for a recovery,” he says.
“What has happened is the brand equity manufacturers have taken all the fat out of their businesses, they’ve leaned their practices, and simplified product flow. It’s not a matter of having taken the value out of the product, they’ve taken the cost out of the mechanism for building windows. As capacity has gone down, so did the costs of that capacity,” he adds.
The most significant factor affecting window costs will be improving their energy efficiency, Lowinski says. The U.S. DOE and EPA, through the Energy Star program, appear intent on putting forth regulations that will drive requirements for windows to be more efficient, he adds. “Honestly, we’re at about the brink of what current technology can do regarding efficient windows. It will take a new invention to jump to another level of efficiency, or will require windows to interface with building operations so we don’t have a passive product but a dynamic product that can react to its environment.
“These products are in early stages of experimentation and commercialization,” he says. “They have limited production capacity, or, manufacturers can’t make these products in the sizes required for residential housing demand. Some technologies have problems regarding durability, suffering degradation over time. Manufacturers are still working on that, and they haven’t worked out all the bugs. As the technology matures the costs will drop down but never as low as the cost of clear glass.”
The 25C tax credit