Andersen Windows’ Craig Blomker & Stacy Einck: A Discussion on Energy Efficiency, Sustainability, and Product Innovation
Danish immigrant Hans Andersen could not have known that his American legacy would last for more than a century after he streamlined the construction process in 1903. Producing some 5 million windows and doors annually with over 8,000 employees, Andersen Windows is the go-to choice for quality windows that are as innovative and durable as they are attractive. With retailers in every major American market including Home Depot and its own start-to-finish service from subsidiary Renewal by Anderson, Andersen Windows has its finger on the pulse of the industry with something for everyone.
We recently spoke with two Andersen team members, Marketing Manager Craig Blomker and Brand Relations Manager Stacy Einck, to discuss the original wood-clad window and the sustainable practices that put to use often neglected manufacturing by-products.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity
RWFD: Andersen has been a leader in sustainable practices for decades and has the distinction as 2010 Energy Star Partner of the Year. Among your most innovative approaches to sustainability, you use sawdust from the manufacturing process to create new composite materials like Fibrex. What are things home owners should consider when seeking a sustainably produced window?
CB: One of the most overlooked aspects of sustainability is also the most basic: making windows that last. We make windows that last a very long time. If you have Andersen windows from the 1950s or 60s, we can probably still find parts for it. So, at the most basic level, creating windows that last for years to come is one of the most sustainable things we can do along with the many things we do during our manufacturing process.
SE: That’s absolutely right. Some statistics show that the average window replacement is just 7 years… that is scary from an environmental and home owner perspective. Our products are designed to last because ultimately that is the most sustainable thing we can do. Aside from this, we have many sustainable practices as you mentioned, such as combining the sawdust from our manufacturing process with a polymer to make our Fibrex material. It’s rot resistant, twice as strong as vinyl windows and virtually impermeable. We use it as a component in many of our products, and our 100 Series windows and patio doors are exclusively made from the material.
RWFD: 2 out of every 3 windows sold in the U.S. are vinyl. This number is expected to grow in the coming years as America’s love affair with affordable and durable windows continues. In what ways does Andersen leverage the best attributes of vinyl in its products?
CB: As we say often, there are no bad materials out there- only bad window designs. Like our Fibrex material, we use vinyl where it shines. That happens to be outside of the home where it is highly weather and rain resistant.
SE: Vinyl tends to be on the lower price range of the market but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer quality. Our experience with vinyl goes back a half century to the 1960s when we started cladding wood windows in vinyl for its resistance to rain. In the right application, it’s a wonderful material. Silver Line Windows is our vinyl manufacturer and their windows are a great choice for many home owners.
RWFD: Energy efficiency is one of the most important features for window shoppers today. Beyond Energy Star certification, what are ways in which customers can determine the most energy efficient window for their home?
CB: As an industry, we make important (energy) choices like glass which can be challenging to consumers with technical terms like Low-E, LSG and other factors. It can overwhelm people but at the end of day it’s all about insulating value. If you want to make it simple, it boils down to two things. First, look at a window’s U-Value which is rated by an independent party and measures a window’s heat loss. If you live in a location that has cold winters and you are worried about keeping your home warm, like us in Minnesota, you need to look for a lower U-Value. Wood windows insulate really well by virtue of their nature whereas an all-aluminum window is a poor choice for colder climates. After that, the choice of glass changes the energy characteristics of a window. The Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) shows you how much heat windows keep out during hot summers.