Giving customer a warm glow

Through appearances at a dozen home improvement exhibitions last year, window and door manufacturer Apeer confirmed that energy efficiency is still a major issue for homeowners when choosing windows. But, says the company’s MD Asa McGillian, as an industry we undersell the benefit.

While energy efficiency ranks highly with homeowners when asked to state the criteria that are important to them when choosing home improvements – and especially windows and doors – very few demand products that exceed the performance as defined in the Building Regulations.

Despite amendments since publication of the current regulations in October 2010, the essential required maximum U-value remains unchanged. Referring to the replacement of glazing in existing residential buildings, Document Part L1b states the minimum required performance for replacement glazing is either a whole window U-value of 1.6W/m2K or a Window Energy Rating band C.

Apeer exhibited at 12 consumer home improvement shows last year, and found that customers focus on security and energy efficiency (after aesthetics), when specifying their windows.

However, until we pointed out that Lumi windows outperform the majority of replacement windows available on the market these days, few visitors to our stand understood that they had a choice, and that energy efficiency may be improved, often substantially, over ‘standard’ products.

In fact, better than average energy efficiency is driven more by customers searching for premium, high end products. Such customers see improved energy efficiency as a clear sign of quality – a key driver for them in everything that they choose, and they are prepared to pay for it. Of course, a small U-value improvement does not make an enormous difference to an individual but collectively the benefits are enormous.

Our experience is that it pays to emphasise the higher energy efficiency performance of our Lumi windows and doors than is generally available from mass-market products. Apeer has invested much time, money and effort in designing and manufacturing Lumi windows and doors, products that are outstanding in performance as well as looks. This includes making Lumi as energy efficient as is possible and, not just to comply with the Building Regulations.

Our customers respond positively when the improved energy efficiency is explained to them and we believe the replacement window industry generally will benefit from offering U-values that exceed the lowest common denominator that is the current Building Regulations, not just high-end products.

As an industry I believe that we are, in broad terms, taking the easy way out. As most homeowners don’t understand that the majority of replacement windows are simply complying with the minimum recommended energy performance, why do any better?

Our experience is that improving significantly upon the Building Regulations sells more windows to customers who understand that their experience as customers has exceeded what they expected.

That should be reason enough to do better than the regulations demand.