Federal study finds window efficiency claims leave consumers unsure
By Megan McKoy-Noe, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Replacing old windows boosts a home’s energy efficiency, but by how much? A new study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions consumers not to expect all claims to live up to perceived expectations.
Energy-efficient windows offer lower heating, cooling, and lighting costs; in fact, replacing old windows with qualified models can cut a home’s energy bill 7 percent to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR program. But true energy savings depends on proper installation and the type of windows installed—facts that folks often miss when reading window advertisements.
“Energy efficiency and cost savings are major factors for many consumers buying replacement windows,” explains David Vladeck, director of the FTC 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.”
To understand how consumers perceive advertised savings, a 2012 FTC study evaluated how 360 consumers in North Carolina, New York, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington interpreted the potential energy savings of advertised windows.
One of the ads evaluated displayed the following text (in uppercase letters): “PROVEN TO SAVE UP TO 47 PERCENT ON YOUR HEATING AND COOLING BILLS!” Another version removed the words, “up to,” while a third version added this disclosure statement: “The average owner saves about 25 percent on heating and cooling bills.”
More than one-third of consumers who saw the “Up To” version reported the advertised windows would save most homeowners 47 percent on their energy bills—a far cry from the true average energy savings. However, including a disclosure statement did not weaken the ad’s impact.
“The FTC believes this report will help guide advertisers to avoid the use of misleading “up to” claims,” Vladeck notes. Earlier FTC studies stopped misleading or deceptive advertisements from five replacement windows manufacturers.
A window shopping guide is available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm >Energy > Shopping for New Windows.
Sources: Federal Trade Commission, ENERGY STAR