Pioneering energy efficiency

Chris Alderson, Edgetech MD, discusses his firm’s role in driving constant innovation in energy efficiency.

We’re living through an energy efficiency revolution; in not much more than the blink of an eye in historical terms, it’s been catapulted from the niche concern of a tiny minority, to something everyone’s talking about – and that, by 2012, was receiving $300 billion in investment every single year.

At Edgetech, we’ve been perfectly positioned to watch as it’s reshaped the glass and glazing landscape. In fact, on many occasions, we’ve been at the forefront of driving improvements in energy efficiency.

We didn’t invent warm-edge technology. The very first warm-edge windows were produced in America in the 1860s; in 1865, Thomas D Stetson patented a double-glazed window that used wood or rope as a spacer.

It was only with the launch of Edgetech’s Super Spacer in the 1980s, though, that the concept really took off.

Thirty years later, Super Spacer still offers easy application, 100% memory and exceptional thermal efficiency and condensation resistance.

But Edgetech’s contribution has been about more than just products. Back in 2006, our Energy Efficiency in Focus seminar sought to raise the profile of the then-fledgling Window Energy Rating scheme. At the time, only 50 products carried Window Energy Ratings.

It predicted that, among other things, companies would be offering C-rated windows as standard by 2010, and that a major window retailer would be offering A-rated windows – both of which came to pass.

By 2009, more than 200 companies had registered more than 1,200 products with the Window Energy Rating scheme.

Interest in improving energy efficiency had started to snowball, and, the following year, we responded with our successful ‘Journey to C’ seminars, which helped the industry adapt to tightening performance requirements within the Building Regulations.

Further events followed, and in the years since, energy efficiency has been firmly established as a mainstream concern.

Now, the best window products offer a level of thermal performance that wouldn’t even have been conceivable not that long ago. But it’s also true to say that the era of drastic improvements in energy efficiency is probably over, at least for now.

Smaller, more gradual enhancements are being made all the time, but it’s possible that all the big, game-changing leaps forward have already been made.

The appetite for energy efficient products is bigger than it’s ever been, however, and it’s certainly possible that we could see impressive technological breakthroughs in the future, especially as the commercial benefits of energy efficiency become increasingly apparent.

The International Energy Agency has recently reported that the benefits of businesses increasing their energy efficiency extend well beyond just cutting their power bills, for example.

They found it also had potential to support economic growth, enhance social development, and help build energy security among other things – and that the average payback period for industrial companies making energy efficiencies was 1.9 years, rather than 4.2 years as previously thought.

It also measured the economic benefits of the warmer, drier homes that would result, finding that if you add in the reduced cost of medical care, sick days and illness-related childcare that would result, the returns could be as much as $4 for every $1 spent.

Regardless of the speed of technological advancement, in other words, it looks certain that energy efficiency will be centrally important in fenestration for decades to come.