Ever hear that joke about the homeowners who purchased new windows? When, a few months later, the company called inquiring why they hadn’t paid the invoice, they explained that the salesperson said the windows paid for themselves.
I know, I know. But really, those homeowners were simply guilty of taking the window company’s promises at face value. Selling windows circa 2005, this was the pitch: “These windows are going to reduce your heating and cooling bills by 50 percent.” So, for example, if your heating/cooling/electricity bills were $300 per month, that would, homeowners were assured, drop to $150, and the monthly payment on the windows—let’s say $280—would really only be about $130. And the kicker: “When you think about it, you’re shelling out the money for these windows whether you own them or not.”
So What Do You Sell?
I worked for a company once that sold a German window. Great product. And they could prove that their window performed substantially better than competitive American products, using NFRC ratings. They were a decade ahead of their time in performance. The Germans thought that because their window was so efficient, they could charge more and it would go over big with homeowners. They found out that that’s not the way it works in America. We sold sizzle, not steak.
In the old days of selling, you could safely assume that the typical homeowner didn’t know much about how windows worked. Out comes the heat lamp. Every now and then you’d run into an engineer who’d fire off knowledgeable questions, which could be a trial. Otherwise we talked R-value, and homeowners had little choice but to take the salesperson’s word.
Today, advances in glass, coatings, and assembly technology have made the term “R-value” relatively meaningless as far as windows go. Two things are important to homeowners: U-factor, and Visual Transmittance. U-factor measures heat flow through the window assembly. The lower the U-factor, the greater the resistance and the more energy efficient the window is. These technologies have not only upped the ante on energy savings, they do it without reducing incoming light (Visual Transmittance).
What’s also different is that today anyone with a computer or a smartphone can find out all about this in 30 seconds.
So if you’re telling prospects that your windows can cut a home's electricity bills by half, you may find yourself on the local Attorney General’s radar for false marketing and selling. The best new windows may reduce heating/cooling bills by as much as 15 or 20 percent a month.
When window sales fell through the floor in 2009, the government offered homeowners a tax credit of up to $1,500 on purchases of qualifying fenestration products. The idea was to stimulate the economy. The Department of Energy, through its Energy Star program, laid out the criteria for what qualified. The incentive had the intended effect, bringing a lot of people into the market and starting a turnaround for the window industry.
You may think that since there is no longer a $1,500 tax credit for qualifying windows, it doesn’t make much difference, since one window’s as good as another to the untutored eye.
But to a homeowner committed to replacement, the difference is in those performance metrics. They will change again as the Department of Energy ups the ante, with new (voluntary) Energy Star standards set for 2018.
As more Millennials come to own homes, count on them to be aware of all this before ever calling a contractor. A little homework will enable them to quickly figure out, for instance, that the double-paned argon window with Heat Mirror may be just a little less expensive than the triple-paned, but that the window is lighter and saves energy just as efficiently.
They’ll know what they want before you’re even at the door, because they don’t have time to waste on five sales presentations. The advantage is not a tax credit, but a better, smarter, more energy-efficient window, purchased from someone who knows what he’s talking about and has all the information at his fingertips. That makes a really good pitch in the home.