As featured in Glass Times Magazine - 2016
Why we need to get better at talking to homeowners about energy-efficient glazing
As winter approaches, Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager at Pilkington United Kingdom Limited, asks how much importance UK householders attach to energy-efficient glazing, and what could be done to educate customers.
We in the UK are very different in our approach to glazing our houses than our Northern European neighbours.
In Scandinavia and Finland, the use of three and even four panes of glass in a single window is now the norm in both new-build properties and retrofitting, and Germany is catching up – estimates for the proportion of the German market made up of triple-glazing vary between 40 and 60 per cent.
This makes sense. During freezing winters, windows that insulate effectively make a major difference when it comes to the cost of keeping homes warm, and over the years, savings add up.
Of course, the thinner nature of the framing systems used in our building stock compared with traditional continental equivalents goes some of the way to explaining the continuing dominance of double glazed over three-pane systems in the UK.
There are a host of options on the market for improving the energy performance of a two-pane system.
For example, our Pilkington energiKare™ Advantage units see the IGUs achieve triple-glazing performance with only two panes of glass. The units achieve an impressive centre pane U-value of just 0.9W/m2K, by combining two panes of low-e glass together.
However, adoption of these kinds of products has arguably been slower than you might expect for a country where average minimum temperatures are close to zero over winter. It is no wonder the UK's building stock is widely acknowledged as one of the least energy-efficient in Europe.
It’s clear that UK customers have some catching up to do.
A clear reason to invest
A recent National Energy Foundation report, indicated that 8.7 per cent of the overall energy used in UK homes can be saved if energy-efficient glass is installed.
With energy prices having outstripped inflation in recent years and rises set to continue, investment in better performing glass could pay itself off many times over throughout the 20-plus-year lifespan of a typical window.
And it’s not just about the glass itself - the same report revealed 3.4 per cent of the overall energy used in UK homes could be saved if energy leakage around windows was reduced through measures such as improved installation. This demonstrates the importance of manufacturers, fabricators and installers across the supply chain continuing to work closely together to ensure optimum results are achieved.
So what needs to change?
While the government has made little progress in encouraging householders to think about the energy efficiency of their properties, there are other organisations that have made small steps forward.
The Home Quality Mark, developed by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) is a good example, providing homeowners with standardised measurements of a property’s performance in areas including security, daylight, sound insulation, energy use and temperature.
However, these initiatives can only go so far in terms of influencing individuals’ thinking at that crucial time when they are making their purchasing decision.
At that point, it’s up to us as an industry to make the argument for investing in better performing glazing.
We as a manufacturer work hard to push forward the performance of our products, and to provide the data that can demonstrate the gains available to customers and we’ll continue to look at how we can get better at this.
At the same time, we also rely on our many customers across the industry to deliver the messages to end users in a compelling way.
All of us across the glass supply chain know how important glazing is to the energy efficiency of a home, but we need to be asking ourselves whether we’re doing enough to persuade the people who ultimately make the decision – homeowners themselves.